Angry Johnny & the Killbillies
What’s So Funny?
I honestly have no idea what I’m listening to when I hear Angry Johnny and the Killbillies. There’s a definite country influence pervading all eighteen tracks, and each one is sprinkled with picks from a variety of horns, a banjo, a balalaika, harmonica, and the occasional organ. Tack on some rockabilly, a few moments of punk rock, a little blues, a little rock-n-roll, and you’ve got a vague idea of what you’re going to be hearing. But what really confuses me about this inexplicable musical collage are the lyrics, which range anywhere from trailer-park violence to a diner shoot-out. Half the tunes include tales of people killing each other for various reasons, and the rest are stories of people being depressed or in love. Sometimes, all three themes manage to get intertwined into one sad anecdote. The album paints a picture of the most bizarre country town, where there’s a road called Devil’s Run, a place called Killville, and nobody seems to leave home without their shotgun.
Not convinced this might be one of the stranger or more disturbing things you’ve ever heard? Take the opening lines of the album, for instance: “Neglected by your momma, abandoned by your dad/ Molested by your uncle, girl, your story’s really sad/ You’ve got eating disorders. You got skinny, you got fat/ Watch your older brother decapitate your cat/ You’re an All-American, All-American Girl.” These songs just can’t be serious, but their images certainly stick with you. This is the country music that anyone not into the genre makes fun of, but I have a feeling Angry Johnny beat us all to the punch. He’s a songwriter of the strangest kind, performing black comedy so strange that you really have to think twice about if he’s serious or not. In fact, you’ll sometimes find yourself even feeling bad for these characters of his. All the same, the songs are pretty catchy and entertaining even if you don’t like country, and just owning something that you might be lucky enough to never run into again seems to be incentive enough to pick it up.
Tar Hut Records, P.O. Box 441940, Somerville, MA 02144; http://world.std.com/~tarhut