When I hear the word psychobilly, three groups come to mind above all the rest: the originators of the genre from the UK in the Meteors (simply because of the fact that they did originate the genre); their German comrades Mad Sin; and the triage of undead musicians who are Zombie Ghost Train.
Glad Rags & Body Bags is by far the second-best psychobilly album I own and have ever heard (only preluded by Mad Sin's Survival of the Sickest). The CD starts off with the title track, an instrumental which immediately sets the standard and tone for the rest of the release, and begins to showcase only a fraction of the musicianship these artists possess.
It moves quickly along to one of the singles for the album, "R.I.P.". This is one of my favorite songs from the band, and one that really puts on display the band’s potential for all different types of playing styles. The song shifts and changes in tone and sound a number of times, with great backing vocals during the chorus, wonderfully fast and reckless stand-up bass lines from Captain Reckless, and breakneck drumming from Azzy T.
"Dark Times" is up next; another song which shows Zombie Ghost Train’s varying musical capabilities. This tune is moderately slower than the others, and is reminiscent of a Stray Cats’ rockabilly song sped up and with darker lyrics.
The next track is another single from the album, and is usually considered the most popular. Entitled "Graveyard Queen," this song tells the tale of a girl, becoming, yep, you guessed it, a "graveyard queen." It starts with an organ and vocal introduction, the latter obviously done by Stu Arkoff, who by the way has one of the best (if not the best) singing voices in all of the psychobilly genre. It speeds up, as most of their songs do, moving along with a great pace and haunting backup vocals that that add an eerily welcome effect. This is only added to by the thriving upright bass of Ct. Reckless and the great solo from Stu from a very `50s sounding guitar.
"Black, White and Dead" is yet another great example of ZGT’s ability. This song takes you on a wild ride as they change tempo a number of times, all the while incorporating elements into the song that complete the spookish tune. Again, a very `50s sound guitar is present, but what is more notable here is the feverish drumming of Azzy T, who truly does bring his drum set to life.
"Deadcat Rumble" brings the album back to the more “psycho” style of the group. A relatively fast pace provides a good shelter for the violent lyrics at hand. Less prevalent here is Ct. Reckless, who can really only be heard well during the breakdown portions of the song, as he is drowned out a little by the louder and more overbearing guitar (though this in no way takes away from how good a song this is).
Up next is an amazing rendition of Devo’s hit song from 1980, "Girl You Want." I’ve often heard it said that psychobilly bands can only play ‘psychobilly’ songs, and they aren’t adequate enough musicians to play ‘normal’ music. With this cover, ZGT puts every naysayer to shame and in their place as they prove that psychobilly musicians aren’t only adequate enough to play ‘normal’ music, but they excel at it and can turn most any song into a psychobilly classic.
"Alone" is a very downtrodden and almost somber song, obviously dealing with the issue of isolation. Although not the most popular track on the album, this song still offers a lot to the album as a whole, giving some ‘leisure time’ or a break from the breakneck speed of the release, and a chance for the listener to catch his or her breathe.
"Night Time Crawling" picks up the pace of the album again with a song that is speedy yet at the same time rather subtle and mellow. It starts and ends with the same guitar chords, again very reminiscent of a Brian Setzer guitar, which adds to the song a very welcome `50s sound that goes along perfect with the ghostly noises and backing vocals.
Another instrumental from the band is next in "Zombie Beach." This song, as the title implies, blends superbly the two genres of psychobilly and surf rock into an upbeat tune that is great to dance to, clap along to, and play over and over again.
"Gone" starts with a great percussion intro by none other then Azzy, who precedes another mesmerizing set of bass lines from Reckless; after that comes the great guitar work of Stu, followed by his own deep and emphatic voice. A catchy tune which more than adequately showcases Stu’s vocal range as a singer gives the listener another great song to sing along with.
Next comes, in many ways, a tribute song to the king of rock 'n’ roll (Elvis Presley, for those of you that don’t know). "Buried Next to the King" starts off with a very, very deep vocal intro from Stu who sings of some of his journeys through music and his desire to be buried next to the King throughout the song as it picks up in pace. Most notable here is Reckless’ bass, which roars with power, intensity and speed, giving the song a great, strong backbone on which to ride.
In my opinion, the song that the album ends on, "You’re My Baby," is unfortunately, the worst on the album. Though it does incorporate fresh elements into the song (an almost-country western style guitar with much more raunchy vocals from Stu and a small mandolin section), it doesn’t have that ‘ZGT ingredient’ that the other tracks had. One of the greatest things about this album is the energy put forth by the band, and that seems to be lacking on the final song.
Zombie Ghost Train is an amazing group of musicians; Stu’s `50s guitar and deep corpse-like vocals, Captain Reckless’ unearthly bass playing ability, and Azzy T’s vivid and phantasmal drumming all combine to bring you a classic in the psychobilly genre.