The Dead Beat Jacks - Graveyard Chicks Are Easy (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Dead Beat Jacks

Graveyard Chicks Are Easy (2021)

Jax Wax records

                The Dead Beat Jacks are a rockabilly/psychobilly band from Chicago’s south side. Their latest release, Graveyard Chicks Are Easy, trends more towards what you’d expect from a rockabilly album than it does the psychobilly sounds you’d typically associate with bands like Nekromantix or Tiger Army. In fact, several of the songs on this release trend musically close to early rockabilly, especially when elements of Western Swing pop up on some of the album’s more subdued tracks.

One of the things that really stuck out to me on this album were the vocals, this isn’t to say you’re going to hear Freddie Mercury or Bruce Dickinson vocal acrobatics on this release, it is to say the vocals don’t immediately try to fit into the early Brian Setzer or Rev. Horton Heat vocal stylings. When using a rougher vocal tone, lead vocalist Jackman comes off sounding like Louie Armstrong fronting a rock band. Though a lot of punks, who haven’t dug into the jazz section at their local record store, may think he sounds more like Fat Mike on NOFX’s cover of “Straight Edge.”

This vocal styling can be heard on the album’s title track, where the band is also able to avoid one of the many clichés of the psychobilly genre and that is trying to sound evil or like they’re writing the soundtrack to a horror movie. Instead, the band tends to engage in a more humorous approach to these topics. Frequently, their lyrics are reminiscent of some Screamin’ Jay Hawkins more macabre songs. The humor can, at times, veer into dad joke, or cool uncle joke, territory. But, given the incorporation of elements of more traditional rockabilly and leaning on western swing elements from time to time, it really works with their overall sound.

This isn’t to say the band can’t pull off more poignant material either, “An Undying Quest” is about the search for love. Coming in much closer to a traditional rockabilly song with cleaner vocals, the use of higher pitched notes for the purpose of punctuating lines in the song is reminiscent of some of the material Robert Gordon and Link Wray recorded together.

This is the first album I’ve reviewed that appears to have been recorded during quarantine last year, and appears to have been done shortly after doghouse bassist Chris joined the band, auditioning while wearing a chemo pump. I would be curious to see how these songs will change and develop once these guys are able to get out and play them live. Not to say any of it is bad, but songs take on a life in a live setting they simply can’t when a band and a crowd aren’t playing off of each other’s energy. The bright spots on this album are incredibly bright. The spots that don’t hit quite as well likely will once the songs get more time in a live setting. This is a solid debut, especially considering it was recording during quarantine during a pandemic. Hopefully these guys keep it going and we get the chance to hear how they build on what they gave us here.