THE GRISWALDS - ARE GROWING OLD DISGRACEFULLY.
Released 18th March 2023 via Psychobilly Earthquake Bremen Reviewed by Kate, 16th March 2023 Buy the album here: https://www.psychobillyearthquake.de/.../PRE-ORDER-CD...
The Griswalds are:
Gary -vocals Joost - guitar Randy -bass Erik - drums
Special thanks to Lauren.
Eight years is a long time. Back in 2014, Kanye and Kim were newlyweds, everyone was dumping buckets of ice water on each other and saying phrase ‘Let It Go’ was bound to prompt a Disney singalong. This was also the last year we got a release from Anglo-Dutch psychobilly legends The Griswalds, and thankfully, just like the world’s collective Frozen obsession, that’s all in the past. Too fast and too sweary to be rockabilly, and too sweet and unironic in their choice of covers to sit firmly into the horror-drenched modern psychobilly world, the Griswalds are old-school psychos who write about what they know and sprinkle this eighties alt-guitar sugar on the top of a very talented and unique sound. Are Growing Old Disgracefully is a pick n mix bag of all that’s good about the Griswalds. Featuring seven new songs, a re-issue of 2014’s super limited edition ‘European Vacation’ ten inch, and nine live tracks from Psychobilly Earthquake #8 in Bremen, Germany, this is the perfect primer for the new Griswalds fan and a celebration for the devoted Griswalds fan. If you’re as excited about their upcoming summer festival appearances as I am, then this is the catchup you need.
Bring It On - The question on everyone’s lips: who hurt you, Griswalds? “I heard you’ve been going round town talking trash about me…” sings Gary, and the haunted backing vocals over that chunky baseline make this very minimal song the perfect soundtrack to the moment when you’ve run in an ex around town after a messy breakup.
Psychobilly Love Affair - it’s been popping up in their live sets for a while and finally it’s been committed to vinyl. The perfect scene slice-of-life track with lashings of that Squeeze domestic charm, and I bet that many of the listeners (and readers of Slap That Bass) can relate to a relationship that starts with ‘I met her at a Klub Foot gig, she said my turn-ups were too big…’. It’s my favourite song on the album by a long shot with these big, mood shifting key changes and I love that it comes up twice on the tracklist for this release.
Murder In Mind - Jagged guitar with a hint of surf support a murderous tale of terror. The Griswalds come across so differently on recordings compared to their live performances and I am really intrigued as to how this spooky little number holds up live. I bet it blows the creepers off the audience, especially when the Griswalds when they’re playing.
Psychobilly Earthquake - what came first, the song or the record label? We won’t get an answer to this chicken or egg question, but we will get enough slap bass and twinkling guitar to not really care about the question any more because this is a cracking track with the right mix of sinister and fun.
So, So Blue - More broken love, more pretty backing vocals, and more rockin 80s energy mean that you won’t be blue while you’re tapping your toes to this track. The chorus is lovely and designed to be sung back to the band across the venue.
What Doesn’t Kill You (Makes You Stronger) - It’s a very personal and very relatable song that echoes sentiments which many of us hold true. Gary’s tones make it sound like he’s talking directly to you and I will never get over the Smiths guitar propping the whole cathartic track up.
Keep the B*tch - Retro radio samples intro another angry breakup song, and it’s one of those numbers where the overall upbeat and optimistic melody are at complete odds with the death threats in the lyrics. It’s a great summary in itself of the new tracks, and in theory this is where the new album finishes as every following song is a bonus track.
Tiger Feet (Live)- My mum’s favourite song, the original was recorded by Mud in 1974 and was a bit of a banger even back then. Evidently it was dying for a rock n roll makeover because this works so dang well as a Griswalds song, and the breakdown in the middle of this live version where they switch to Radar Love is genius. High energy, high tempo, highly entertaining.
Stop, Jump About (Live) - This is it. This is the start of the section where we hear the quintessential Griswalds sound. Retro, frantic, wild and rockin with an ‘oi oi oi’ to push you into the pit, this is old school psychobilly at it’s finest.
Surfin for a Blonde / Rich B*tch (live) - The shout of “Let’s go Surfing!”seamlessly transitions the previous song to this one from the same live set. It’s so quick and the guitar finally gets to break loose over the faux Beach Boys backing vocals. Sadly, the blonde in question turned out to be rather materialistic and without a breath we’ve surfed right into the second half of this double, and it’s obvious why this number is such a fan favourite.
My Struggle (live) - Ska beats and nihilistic lyrics? Yes please. I love a band who can work the cute/creepy dichotomy in ska and this is a bouncy, aggressive little number about getting stuck in the ‘hole that I dug in the ground’.
Teenage Kicks (live) - we all know the Undertones original, and it’s the slap bass flourishes which make this version magic. Oh, and the fact the Griswalds mix in some of Nekromantix’ Gargoyles Over Copenhagen over raucous shout along backing and pure rock n roll guitar.
Happy Hour (live) - my favourite Griswalds cover is introduced with offers of sharing trousers and Gerry Anderson references and has a Led Zep breakdown. It always has grim lyrics but the overwhelming joy in the live performances makes everything okay.
I’ve Got A Secret - Now we’re onto the European Vacation portion of the release (you can buyout separately here if you feel inclined: https://thegriswalds.bandcamp.com/album/european-vacation). Dark surf vibes abound in this creepy, trembling bass heavy number, and I love the clipped guitar dips.
Ghosts of Motley Hall - Haunted House rock n roll full of piano flourishes and fifties happiness which finishes in a very satisfying ‘yeah’. Absolutely brilliant.
Never Notice Me - It might just be because I’ve heard their Teenage Kicks cover, but I am detecting Undertones vibes on this track too. The frustration of unrequited love has these gorgeous surf fades and the echoing garagey production makes this a tough little number.
Holiday Road - Upbeat with the drums clapping along, this is the point where things get a little bit meta. The original by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac was used in the soundtrack to National Lampoon’s European Vacation….the protagonists of which are, of course, the Griswold family. The finest quality reworked and reimagined cheese.
Crazy Town - There’s some intense circle pit energy on the dark rollercoaster vocals and the drama of the continuous popping bass creates this fantastic musical whirlpool of a track.
Conspiracy - I love the punk vocals and Nigel Lewis tones on this one where the drums take centre stage and the guitar flings itself wherever it feels is best in a fabulously anarchic tune.
Bully - Expect the unexpected with the Griswalds and a very dark, very minimal and very angry song was not what I would have predicted at all. If this was sped up a fair bit, it’d be a great Frenzy song.
Who’s Crying Now (Live) -…and we’re back to the live tracks! What a great choice of tracklist as this song is perfect fit with the last two numbers and gallops like a wild horse through a spooky message of revenge.
Holiday Road (live) - Listening to this record is a journey, and with this song we’ve turned another corner on this long and winding road. I prefer the live version to the studio version and if you’re one of those folks for whom Me First and The Gimme Gimmes is a Quilty pleasure, you will adore this one and its fantastic DIY energy and guitar breakdown.
Psychobilly in Love (Live) - Another big Griswalds number in the form of a re-worked A Teenager In Love by Dion and The Belmonts updated for the rockin’ scene. A dreamy start quickly breaks down into a gorgeously trashy lament full of those characteristically old school whoops. As the Griswalds have announced their appearance at Psychobilly Meeting this summer, it’s an easy bet that this will go down very well in Pineda.
Hitman (live) - High energy and action packed from start to finish, it’s as punchy as the titular assassin. I adore the relish in the vocals and the taut, twitchiness of the rhythm section.
Psychobilly Love Affair (Live) - It’s back, and what a finish…live, there’s echoes of Cock Sparrer in the guitar and the whole song is simultaneous more punk and more soft than covered in the studio recording.
This album is an absolute gift at the price. You’ve got new songs, old songs, rare songs, punk songs, ska beats, surf waves, old school psycho nostalgia and lot to get you excited about their upcoming tour dates. The Griswalds are taking their place in the sun and they deserve everything good which is inevitably going to come their way in the form of this brilliant record.