Groovie Ghoulies - Fun In The Dark (retro review) (Cover Artwork)

Groovie Ghoulies

Fun In The Dark (retro review) (1999)

Lookout! Records

By the time 1999 came around, Groovie Ghoulies were pretty much off my radar. I had picked up World Contact Day a few years back and really enjoyed it. It had some fantastic punk energy, killer Chuck Berry riffs, and campy lyrics. But after a bit, I threw the record on the shelf and kind of forgot about it. With 1999’s Fun In The Dark, Groovie Ghoulies dragged me back in and haven’t let go since.

Fun In The Dark came along at a precarious time for Ramones-derived Lookout! pop punk bands. Most of the high-water marks of the era had already come and gone, with some catching on with a mass audience (Dookie) while others became favorites of the punk-sort-of-underground (My Brain Hurts, Love Is Dead, Don’t Back Down, and the Ghoulies own World Contact Day). To be sure, most of the good stuff simmered just below that surface while sanded down and sanitized versions were gobbled up by MTV, radio, and major labels, almost ruining whatever positive energy that punk had going for it. In some ways, it felt like the sun was setting on a moment (admittedly an overreaction). But with Fun In The Dark, Groovie Ghoulies decided they weren’t willing to go away so easily, holding on tight to their buzzing guitars and clever lyrics.

Fun In The Dark is loaded with some of my favorite Groovie Ghoulies songs. Catchy pop punk romps like “Carly Simon” and “She Gets All The Girls” draw you in with super simple guitars and structures, fantastic rhyme schemes and phrasing, and fun lyrics. The hooks are completely infectious and won’t leave your head anytime soon. “(She’s Got A) Brain Scrambling Device” pulls the same tricks, except now with a campy sci-fi theme. And those campy sci-fi themes again make up a chunk of the record, popping up on the rapid-fire phrasings of “Fun In The Dark” and the mid-tempo contagious number “(She’s My) Vampire Girl” (with an absurdly hooky repetition of the line “I wanna rock and roll every night, and sleep through every day”). Each of these is fantastic. They leave a mark, they make me smile, and they get me singing.

As is the Ghoulies way, Fun In The Dark also offers up a number of songs that pay homage to some of their influences. “Lonely Planet Boy” is a New York Dolls cover that holds pretty true to the original, only with a bit less nuance. And later, “Laugh At Me” is a stellar Sonny Bono song that actually reminds me a bit more of New York Dolls than the aforementioned “Lonely Planet Boy”. And Kepi and the gang do the song well. Even the surfy Ghoulies original “The Spell Is On” is an obvious “Sheena” soundalike during the verses.

By 1999, Groovie Ghoulies had already done some tremendous work (World Contact Day, Re-Animation Festival), and Fun In The Dark would continue the streak. And while this record seemed like a sort of last hurrah at the time of release, Fun In The Dark would prove to be a good time and a great entry into the Groovie Ghoulies universe.