In April 2016, Contessa & The Squires released ‘Stomp The Bomb‘ [retitled ‘Stomp The Bomp’ at some outlets], an enjoyable – if brief – voyage into rockabilly sounds with a European accent. It was one of those recordings that deserved more attention; between the short, punchy songs and a feel-good attitude, the band sounded very professional and as if the recording process had been fun. At the end of October that same year, they made an unexpectedly hurried return with ‘Horrorama’ which, as its title suggests, tied in with Halloween.
Obviously, ‘Horrorama’ is a little more throwaway than ‘Stomp’, but the band approach the four spookshow themed tracks with the same amount of gusto. Beginning with the best track, ‘Rockabilly Sabbath’, at least musically, is a good reminder of things Contessa and company do so well. The straight up rockabilly chops often sound like a supercharged Stray Cats: the simplistic drumming provides a hard backbeat; a busy double bass powers through every bar with a genuine energy and the 50s twang on the guitar lends a timeless sense of cool. Against the driving rhythms, Contessa’s heavily accented voice is sassy and smart, as if the rock ‘n’ roll revue of Shanda & The Howlers wandered in to jam with Polecats. In and out in exactly two minutes flat, you get to experience The Squires arrive, have a blast and split.
Luckily the other tunes are also really worth hearing. The bass heavy ‘Monster Jamboree’ trades in the rockabilly schtick for some straight up rock ‘n’ roll that fuses bassist The Racer’s terrific playing with back and forth riffs from guitarist Mr. Delta. It’s very much tried and tested, for certain, like a recycling of Eddie Cochrane and Gene Vincent but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable or any less fun. This is especially true when factoring in another great vocal that lends a very Italian twang to an otherwise unavoidably American style. In a crashier mood, ‘Lost Boys’ beefs up the drums with some really aggressive tom work, which when joined by another 50s riff and samples of a horror movie cackle becomes the ultimate in retro kitsch. Again, the tightness within the band’s musical ranks is clear for all to hear and even with the vaguely novelty Halloween-centric lyrical content, The Squires still sound like a band whom could go up against some of the very best. Finally, ‘Wolfgirl’ presents a great, deep guitar tone and even deeper drums. That’s all that’s needed to suggest a great listen lies ahead, but once the band shift gears for the chorus allowing the drums to crash and rattle in true punk-fuelled rockabilly style, things really take off, musically speaking. Vocally, Contessa sounds a little less direct, but with everything else taken into consideration, it’s still a solid number overall.
In a just world, a couple of these tracks deserve to become cult horror-rock classics alongside Bobby Pickett and tunes by the Horrorpops, but obviously in a landscape swamped by digital music, there’s always the chance this’ll get lost in the noise. You owe it to yourself to make the effort to seek this out and then backtrack through Contessa’s catalogue. In some ways, the horror themes should make this feel like more of a novelty, but with some great playing Contessa And The Squires ensure everything just feels so natural and so…right. When it comes to delivering maximum excitement in a minimum time, you couldn’t ask for much more.