From life’s dark corners and gritty back alleys comes this musical love child of Johnny Cash, The Necromantix and Etta James! With the sounds of a Quentin Tarantino movie, the vocals to haunt your soul, and the looks of The Devils Rejects!!! The Back Alley Barbers are sure to get you on your feet and stop your heart!
Back Alley Barbers are female-fronted rock/psychobilly/rockabilly band from the Portland, OR, area. They are Queen Pirate aka Sara Linkof (“Vocals, Effective Leadership, Throat-Punches”), Corvin Blacke (“Upright Bass, Backing Vocals, Malevolent Glowering”), Dead End Johnny Robinson (“All Guitar, Backing Vocals, Sunny Disposition”), and Phil Degennaro (“Hitting Things, General Deviance”). Back Alley Barbers‘ deliciously dark blend of punk, rockabilly and horror is fueled by the powerful pipes of the band’s sexy, heavily-tattooed frontwoman which have the power to steal your soul and turn you into her zombie slave. The band has, to date, released two albums with Splatterhouse Wreckords: Psycho Sonatas (2013) and Memento Mori (2014).
Psycho Sonatas opens with a sound clip of Vincent Price from William Castle‘s 1959 horror classic House on Haunted Hill: “I’m going to give the people what they want. Sensation. Horror. Shock. Send them out in the streets to tell their friends how wonderful it is to be scared to death.” And so the shock and horror begins with “The House“, an homage to that film [whose 1999 remake sucked]. “Tonight I’ll be your Annabelle if you’ll be my Vincent Price,” she offers. However, if you’ve seen the movie, you won’t be tempted. Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) was plotting to murder her husband, eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Price). “Necromancers” is a blazing punkabilly track about a couple who “love” the dead: “Well it was late at night when he was walking home / Found herself a head and put it next to her bed / She said la-la-la-la- la-la-la-la-let’s make out.” In the sultry ballad “Vampire Anthem“, Queen Pirate wants to sink her teeth into your neck and you can’t resist: “What does it take? What would you give? Come with me and I’ll take your hand / And we’ll dance the dance of the dead.” This track ranks up there with The Frantic Flattops‘ “Burnin’ Love” [from Rock-N-Roll Murder (1999)] as one of my favorite rockabilly vampire odes! “Secret Society Blues” struts out a rhythm that recalls Eddie Dixon‘s “Relentless”, while “The Black Cauldron“ cooks up a fiery cannibal ballad and “Go Back“ gets the punk rock party kickin’ at the graveyard. An excellent debut!
Memento Mori opens with a cool sound clip of Peter Fonda from Roger Corman‘s 1966 counterculture classic The Wild Angels: “We wanna be free! We wanna be free to do what we wanna do. We wanna be free to ride. We wanna be free to ride our machines without being hassled by The Man! … And we wanna get loaded. And we wanna have a good time. And that’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna have a good time… We’re gonna have a party.” And so the party begins! Memento Mori is, in fact, an all-out punk rock party with only hints of the thumpin’ psychobilly that blazed throughout Psycho Sonatas, and it delivers, the band says, “a collection of songs derived from sacrifices made while on their musical journey, and the people who have helped along the way.” I say this album is f*cking awesome! “I did not know that fairy tales don’t have a happy ending,” Queen Pirate sings, disillusioned, in “Rapunzel”, one of the album’s (many) best songs. I love her frustrated scream at the end. “Joy Ride”, which is “a curious love song from the eyes of a kidnapper,” and “Among the Crowd”, which is “dedicated to the Barbers‘ fans and what their support means to them,” are two more great rockers; but “Between the Lines”, with its raging metallic punk riff, is a definite favorite, too! However, Memento Mori closes with a double shot of perfection that makes me want their next album now! First, “Burn It Down” is a slow-burning ballad that would’ve fit right in on Quentin Tarantino‘s Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004) soundtrack. Or on a split single with UK punk band Gasoline Thrill‘s “Kill Me Again”. The final track is a stunning cover of “House of the Rising Sun”, which at an epic 4:35 is, thankfully, the Barbers‘ longest song. “House of the Rising Sun” is, of course, the traditional folk song [possibly about a brothel] covered by many but most successfully by English rock group The Animals in 1964. The song was, more recently, a single for alt-metal band Five Finger Death Punch in 2014. However, the Barbers‘ version with Queen Pirate‘s sultry vocals is my favorite. I’m sure Memento Mori will be one of my top 10 favorite albums of this year.