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Sarah Tomlinson

The Groovie Ghoulies Born in the Basement

The second Groovie Ghoulies album, Born in the Basement, could itself have been spawned from subterranean depths. There’s the lovable cast of oddballs always lurking in the Ghoulies‘ entourage, here pumpkinhead, the beast with five hands, and the babe of “Born in the Basement,” living below on dog food. And the album has a lo-fi garage sound as if recorded in the basement among cobwebs and boxes of old Christmas decorations. The songs are stripped down and raspy compared to later Ghoulies efforts, but the effect is used well and throws into greater relief the many small moments that startle like a fun house skeleton. “My Car,” has goofy, simple lyrics, but the cool low drum thump, hand jive rhythm, and upbeat dancy outro make the song. These are the little nuggets that Kepi embeds in his songs, metamorphosing them into more than just mid-tempo three-chord rockers. While the spirit of the music is the fun to be had when you embrace your misfit status and get down to the joys of music, romance, and even rainswept nights — and the songs themselves are fun — these details add subtle pleasure. Kepi‘s nasal vocals and spunky delivery are at the heart of the songs here, although he hasn’t quite mastered the cool bluesy pipes he exhibits on later releases. The album parades the spiraling melodies of ’60s songs you might frug to, with a pop-punk lightness, but there’s also a heavier ’70s rock touch, like the Runaways era Lita Ford style guitar solo on “Born in the Basement.” Add covers of the Partridge Family‘s “Hello Hello,” and Bob Dylan‘s “Walk out in the Rain” and “Hell Time,” and you’ve got the Frankenstein nature of the Groovie Ghoulies — sewn together from different parts and quite clearly, hip-shakingly alive. For Ghoulies fans who come to this album from later releases, it may surprise at first, but upon repeated listens it will be like the two-headed, five-handed goblin baby you can’t help but love.