From the first time I popped the black disc out of its plastic tray through the six or seven spins I gave it over the course of the weekend, and up until I ventured online to do a little research, I thought "Gone Bats" was the name of this band and planned on commenting how great a name it is for a psychobilly band. But alas, Gone Bats is the name of the album, and Stitch Hopeless & the Sea Legs is the unfortunate name this band bears.
However, generally speaking, a band's music is markedly more important than their name, and that's where Stitch Hopeless & the Sea Legs (pardon the pun) have a leg up. Launching off the starting blocks, the first two cuts give the impression that Stitch Hopeless' forte is interpolating classic rock 'n' roll tunes into raucous psychobilly wreckers. "Gonna Run" nips the Bill Haley and His Comets hit "Rock Around the Clock" while "Trash Like Me" seems to draw from CCR's "Travelin' Band," though it could just as easily be aping Little Richard's "Good Golly Miss Molly" or any other veritable 12-bar blues romp. As it turns out, though, Stitch Hopeless & the Sea Legs are just as capable of writing contemporary psychobilly tunes in their own meter and melodies. The morbidly titled "Corpse Fucker" isn't lyrically as grotesque as its name would suggest, as a rather playful male/female duet alternates in a similar manner to Dropkick Murphys' "The Dirty Glass." "Dead Alive" is a mostly a stock psychobilly song, but it's worth mentioning as an example of the way Stitch hiccups the last syllable of some words in the way of the late, great Lux Interior.
The title track shows up in two forms: the standard version (track 10) and the "frantic version" (track 5). The only difference seems to be a host of singers on the frantic version, one of whom appears to be Tim Armstrong. It's only for a line, and it passes by in a flash, but it seems odd there's no mention in the liner notes and there's nothing to be found online. It could make sense, though, as track 8, "Grey Laces," has a definite post-Life Won't Wait Rancid feel to it and is one of the album's best songs. Another is the rather tender "Work & Drink," which thumps in with a round of thick double bass slaps and professes apologetically, "I work and I drink and I fall asleep / And I wake just to work and get off work and drink […] This is how we live our lives, honey / This is how we do / But I'd like to spend more time with you." The final track on Gone Bats is a tribute to oft-embattled Pogues' frontman Shane MacGowan, as Stitch Hopeless echoes on "Been Around, "I've been around / On first-name basis with the police in this town / I've been up, I've been down / Lord knows I've been around."
As long as the "white power" tag added to Stitch Hopeless & the Sea Legs on Last.fm is fallacious (and one should assume it is if that's really Tim Armstrong's voice on the title track), this is one of the best psychobilly albums out there. Blending the personal struggles of the human race with the zombie, vampire and Frankenstein fare of psychobilly storytelling, Gone Bats can stand alongside the best of Tiger Army, the Meteors and the Quakes as a pinnacle of the genre so far.
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