MICK MERCER

MIGUEL AND THE LIVING DEAD
ALARM!!!

Strobelight

Greatness can be discerned early, and you’ll notice it after precisely one minute, one second of ‘Miguel And The Living Dead’ when the light, jangling guitar moves across the burning, buzzy bass before the band’s name is chanted by way of a guttural chorus. Diverting rocky guitar twiddles zip through, and they make this a wonderfully jabbering opener, but those simple light touches show how easily they can light up a song. ‘Aliens Wear Sunglasses’ then hits a harder, leaner mood with these stern vocals pumping out over frilly guitar coils and stompy drums, encapsulating their direct approach to feisty Deathrock tunes. They do like taut beats and a very clipped, punky energy makes everything so catchy.

‘Graveyard Love Song’ is spookier fun, waltzing among the muck of a fizzy song with a weird guitar shiver based on horror clichés which is a nice touch. ‘Salem’s Lot’ has a lustier bloodshot wrath in it, as they stagger forwards, the guitar held back behind the wary vocals and somehow out of it comes a beautiful guitar line as good as anything from prime time Psychedelic Furs, so go figure! ‘Night Of Terror’ also works on harder music, providing a solid middle heart to the record, as the drums churn behind madly driven singing, gentler guitar fills, and some keyboard frills. ‘Killer Klowns From Outer Space’ opts for twiddly escapist guitar and scampering drums but soon veers off the surfabilly path into cabaret plonking piano and crooning mania which is impressively loose.

‘Black Magic Sex Terror’ is more of the same, without distinctive individual relish, clumping away, but ‘Sexy Velvet Shadow’ is stirring, as resolute keyboards slug it out with wiggly guitar and stark drums; a compelling melody boosted by more plaintive singing. ‘Train Of The Dead’ takes us into spaghetti territory with wistful whistling and fiddly guitar busting a gut, and proves to be convincingly moody yet very swish and neatly completed. ‘Ghostmaniac’ is a straightforward caper, and ‘Alarm!!! (reprise)’ a bit of a sample-ridden dead end.

On this form they’re frequently closer to Horrorpunk than Deathrock, with their tendency towards humour, and yet the agile switches in mood, the almost nonchalant confidence and modest charisma all work to the good. Every bit as good as the Calabrese album, with atmosphere replacing their outright punch, this is an excellent debut without actually being truly sensational. The signs are there for something quite superb in the future for here is a band who can carve out a new direction, but they’re still laying down some ground rules, and getting their more obvious japes and scrapes out of the way. The lovely part is their excitement, the confusing thing is their choice of subject matter, because if they had less obvious targets they’d be huge!