Reflecting back upon the spirit of a ‘50s rock n’ roll jukebox, Vampire Rodeo is bringing both rockabilly and psychobilly into the 21st century with a ten-song set of fun, danceable tunes. On their second full-length album, Nightmares and Nursery Rhymes, they pay homage to the pioneers-- Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Johnny Rivers-- as well as give a nod to ‘80s rock n’ roll revivalists like The Cramps and The Stray Cats. With a name like Vampire Rodeo, you can bet that whatever these musicians come up with is bound to be laced with supernatural themes. However, if you’re looking for something that will scare you, don’t count on it. These are more like novelty songs for big events like parties and such.
The throwback fun begins on the first half of the record with “They are coming to get you Barbara.” The intro to this one-minute track about a woman about to be eaten by a zombie is incredibly fun and silly. “My Lincoln” continues the gimmick, with a Leon Redbone-esque voice describing a long black car with suicide doors. It also goes “yeah yeah yeah” quite a lot. “Bats$it Crazy” introduces the saxophone for a change, alongside bouncy piano and a man’s clean vocals. “Debbie Does Decaf” is humorous and sounds like rockabilly mixed with ska. There is also percussive scratching going on in the background, perhaps coming from a guitar of some sort, either regular or bass. The first half concludes with a stab at seriousness called “We All Float Down Here.” I thought that the simple vocal harmonies and ritzy drum work added a lot to this piece.
The fun continues, with mostly women on vocals rather than men, in the second half. “Chupacabra” has very much of a Latin samba flavor to it, and it’s probably the most fun out of all ten songs here, especially with its thrilling guitar rhythms. The women take over on vocal duties beginning with the title track as well as the next two. The title track “Nightmares and Nursery Rhymes” is a highly memorable tune with sax, guitar, bass and drums. “Keep your eyes open and don’t fall asleep,” indeed. “Riverdale Road” sounds like it should soundtrack a scene from a movie set in a New Orleans bayou (during the ‘50s of course). Deeply seductive saxophone and jazzy drums pair nicely with the woman’s velvety voice. “Whistling Past the Graveyard” is just that: a whistle hook stretched out into a bona fide ‘50s throwback tune. Last of all is “Starbucks.” Could this be a possible sequel to “Debbie Does Decaf?” I’m not very sure, but one thing I am sure about is that the reverbed guitar riff recalls that of good old-fashioned surf rock. It also features a return of the Redbone-adjacent style of singing along with the band’s trademark sense of humor.
Overall, Vampire Rodeo is highly energetic, kooky vintage rock n’ roll at its cheesiest. I mean this as a good thing, of course. Throw this on at a Halloween party, and the crowd will go crazy… or should I say, “Bats$it Crazy!”