As its title suggests, Southern Culture on the Skids' Zombified is something of an album that has risen from the dead.
A Halloween season treat from the kitsch-savvy but seriously rocking roots music combo, the recording was designed as an eight-song EP disc for Australian release in 1998. Why it never surfaced in America until now is anyone's guess.
But to celebrate its return from the hereafter, SCOTS mainstays Rick Miller, Mary Huff and Dave Hartman have added five newly recorded songs to make Zombified a full-length album. Bet you didn't know zombies had growth spurts.
But what makes the album — as is the case, really, with all SCOTS recordings — is the vibe. The trio has so persistently masked its obviously schooled swamp-rock gumbo sound with enough onstage trailer-park shtick to make many dismiss — or embrace, depending on your entertainment vantage point — the group as a novelty act. What is really going on is a band with roots-rock chops to spare zeroing on material and performance perspectives that keep its music fun. And this is where Zombified scores big.
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A love of low-rent horror flicks — the kind where sex and gore are almost necessary by-products as long as they don't make the movie come in over budget — fits right in with the SCOTS' rural roots music vision. The title track rolls on guitar hooks deep fried in reverb from Miller and a fat, high-carb backbeat courtesy of Hartman. The resulting music is a little surf, a little bit psychobilly and a whole lot of fun when the lyrics sink in ("my girl's more dead than alive").
Miller moves front and center for a light instrumental slice of hullabaloo boogie (Swamp Thang), while bassist/singer Huff has a field day with the beyond-the-grave vocals — seriously, that's how far back in the mix they are placed — on the J.D. Loudermilk teen lullaby Torture. The music is set afloat on a sea of organ orchestration that is more sentimental sounding that torturous.
But we all know zombies also like to gnaw on something, well, substantial. To that end we have a meaty instrumental revision of an early Creedence Clearwater Revival gem, Sinister Purpose. The swampy CCR/John Fogerty guitar dressing has been a prominent element of the SCOTS sound for years. Here, with all the intended voodoo sentiment in place, the tune positively glistens in the midnight moonlight that makes Zombified one of the greater guilty pleasures to pass for treats this Halloween.