Album Reviews

Jookabox – Dead Zone Boys

(Asthmatic Kitty) UK release date: 25 January 2010

Jookabox - Dead Zone Boys On his third album (this time dropping the Grampall and just going by Jookabox), Indianapolis native David Adamson delivers a freaked-out, genre-hopping mishmash of sonically deft and rhythmically explosive blasts for the funkily undead. Dead Zone Boys is the sort of album that goes as well with drop-topping through a demilitarized zone as it does with knocking over headstones in the haunted cemetery at the witching hour.

Adamson mixes genres and sounds, blending and pitch-shifting, looping and deconstructing to create his most focused (though it may not sound that way on first listen) effort to date. If 2008’s Ropechain hinted at Adamson’s genius, then Dead Zone Boys unveils it in its fullness and lets it run banshee-like through the streets. Adamson’s sonic palette is as diverse as one can get, ranging from big bass drum hits to folk acoustic guitars to sludgy, atonal electrics and electronics. Throughout the album, vocals are shifted into inhuman falsettos and anti-helium huffed-out gigantisms.

And while the approach may rival any Bruce Campbell fronted B-movie in its slapstick bombast, the subject matter maintains a decidedly dark, and somehow disturbing appeal. On the one-two openers Phantom Don’t Go and Don’t Go Phantom, Adamson makes an appeal to the undead (this time, perhaps appearing as a metaphor for his downwardly urbanised Indy neighbourhood – but maybe not): “Phantom boys want to take your life away, and desperate phantoms wish to put you in their place.” In Don’t Go Phantom, he sings – in hypnotically high-pitched maniacal falsetto – “Don’t go, phantom. I’m in love with you. I’ll do anything you want me to do.”

The zombie country-and-western You Cried Me marries lightning fast acoustic guitar strokes with haunted wailing. Here Adamson takes on the role of a horny vampire, begging the ghost of his dreams to join him in the underground. “I’ll take you down with me, girl. I’ll bite your neck! I’ll make you crawl!” By the time the wailing spirit is joined by a gospel choir, you’ve bought into Adamson’s vampire longing, and you’re dancing along to his madness.

East Side Bangs/East Side Fade is a slow-motion crawl with dirgy bass runs and a keyboard riff that could be leftover from Montell Jordan‘s This Is How We Do It. Meanwhile, Adamson soul sings about “desperate phantoms coming for your money,” over air raid sirens and eventual xylophones. Bizarre, to say the least, but catchy – or is it kitschy? – as hellfire.

The album’s most memorable moments are front-loaded, but the closer, F.I.T.F. #1 features a syrupy downward-shifted vocal over a bubblegum pop guitar riff (that sounds more than a bit like a stripped down, drugged-out re-imagining of Pete Townshend‘s Let My Love Open The Door). Adamson leads a choir of sex-addicted vampires, werewolves, and zombies: “You gotta have faith in the fucking again, faith in the fucking again!”

Like Jookabox’s previous two albums, Dead Zone Boys will not appeal to the masses. But like any good horror-themed freak show, it’s probably better that way. Jookabox is the circus geek or the two-headed boy floating in formaldehyde: its appeal doesn’t make sense on an intellectual level, and you feel it’s in your best interest to look away and cleanse your mind of its intrusion.

But Adamson is not the genteel vampire of modern popular fiction: where this album’s concerned, there’s no need for permission to enter. As far as monster mashes and graveyard smashes go, Dead Zone Boys is a work of near-perfect campy genius.

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