There is no denying if there is a sniff of psychobilly or rockabilly in a release we instinctively lick our lips and with real zeal if it comes under the moniker of Norm & the Nightmarez. The band has been the source of tracks and albums which have unerringly ignited our appetite for those and aligning genres past and present so you can imagine we had a spring in our step when the gent behind the outfit sent over their new 7” EP, Wild ‘n’ Rockin’ containing four rich slices of what Norm and co do best.
Northern Ireland born but living in Birmingham since the age of 4, vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Norm Elliott has been stirring up the psychobilly scene long before his latest band was a spark of an idea. The eighties saw him step forward with The Phantom Zone, an outfit which supported the likes of Guana Batz, The Vibes, and The Sting-Rays in its time. Numerous other projects followed before Norm linked up with ex-Meteors/ex-Guana Batz bassist Mick White and Sharks drummer Paul ‘Hodge’ Leigh for Mickey & The Mutants, the band releasing the outstanding album, Touch The Madness in 2013. From there Norm created Norm & the Nightmarez and has released a pair of equally impressive albums in Psychobilly Infection of 2014 and Psychobilly D.N.A. two years later. There was rumours that the band might be calling it a day or at least on a hiatus but thankfully last year it was re-energised and now in fresh inspiring form as proven by Wild ‘n’ Rockin’.
The band’s sound has always been more adventurous than the psychobilly tag suggests. It is undoubtedly psychobilly bred, nurtured, and perpetually grounded in its first love but also keenly embraces the cleaner cut rockabilly from the fifties onwards as well as further diversity inspired by both styles. It is that fact which EP opener Too Rockabilly deals with; a song going eye to eye ball with all dismissing its imagination and rich flavouring as not psychobilly, presumably accusations the band has had to dismiss despite their music always doing the talking. The rousing track opens with a juicy rockabilly chord, immediately bursting into a swinging canter with rhythmic predation as melodic tendrils entangle ears and Norm’s vocals challenge. The throbbing double bass of Chrissy Royle alone had us bouncing, the ear clipping beats of Dave Prince egging on even greater participation whilst Norm had vocal chords in league and hips swinging to his melodic antics with ease. There are essences of Ray Campi meets The Sharks to the track but as always the case to date, it is a song pure Norm & the Nightmarez.
It is followed by Bop, a track living up to its name once initially teasing with a flirtatious guitar lure. Again the body was soon lost to its manipulation, its core hook infesting the psyche as rhythms again brought the bounce in body and spirit alive. As with the first, decades of rockabilly and especially its early Sun days are embraced in its psychobilly groove, the wondering if Johnny Burnette fronting The Meteors might sound something akin to this brought about by its attributes.
The B-side to the EP starts with Catwoman; its dark salacious antics immediately toying with the senses as the guitar courts and preys on the imagination. Primarily a deliciously seductive instrumental with melodic finesse and shadow clad threats crossed by almost portentous yet encouraging echoes of its title, the track needed little time to enslave.
That success was just as quickly inspired by the closing stomp of Lonely Avenue. Considering selling its soul from the off, the encounter gallops through ears reaping melodic rewards and dark temptations; the trio spinning a web of each with their inventive craft and enterprise. It might escape the clutches of the horned one but is a devil in itself and had ears hungry for more, addiction increasing with every devouring.
Among so many great previous tracks, the four within the Alan Wilson produced Wild ‘n’ Rockin’ just might be the most thrilling bunch yet from the band. Certainly with the great artwork of Sherrie Gunstone similarly flirting from the front cover, they are some of their most contagious and arousing. Rock ’n’ roll is indeed the devil’s music and Norm & the Nightmarez’s sounds quite possibly the most devilish of them all.
Wild ‘n’ Rockin’ is out now on 7″ coloured vinyl via Western Star; available @ https://western-star.tmstor.es/cart/product.php?id=37163
Pete RingMaster 05/06/2018
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