Rabbit-masked rock ‘n’ roll mad man NOBUNNY returns with brand new album of addictive ear candy.
When I first saw a picture of Nobunny; wild-eyed and leering behind the ragged remains of a dollar store bunny mask, wearing nothing more than an unwashed, conspicuously stained pair of black briefs and an ill-fitting leather jacket, I was intrigued. When I first heard Nobunny, I thought to myself, ‘It’s as if Lux Interior and Joey Ramone hooked up in Disneyland after overdosing on Viagra.’ And from that moment, I just knew it had to be love.
Nobunny is a mixed mutt of rock ‘n’ roll (half human/half rabbit by way of jackalope, according to his own weird invented mythology), combining the hedonistic theatricality of glitter rock, the gleeful, sugar-saturated sexual undercurrents of bubblegum pop, and the pungent whiff of a gutter punk’s dirty realism.
This crazed cross-breeding of styles has created a very special, one of a kind creature, and a living love letter to most music fans’ record collections in general. Indeed, he is no stranger to borrowing melodies and hilariously re-appropriating logos; the band’s most beloved images steal from Misfits, Motorhead and Ghostbusters, while signature song “Nobunny Loves You” is basically an Isley Brothers cover.
As a performer, Nobunny is an unstoppably charismatic and at times volatile presence that is both menacing and lovable (perhaps why he is sometimes dubbed “the cuddly G.G. Allin”).
Although I am fiercely loyal to the bands I admire and respect, it is not often an artist excites me to such devotional levels as Nobunny does. I like heaps of energy, enthusiasm and personality in my music, as well as an obvious appreciation of the value of rock ‘n’ roll (while a sleazy, silly, and irreverent sense of humour also helps), and it seems to me that Nobunny is the best at all of these things. So it was with great anticipation that I picked up his latest album Secret Songs, the long-awaited follow-up to 2010’s First Blood, and I am pleased to report that in typical Nobunny fashion, it is literally infested with earworms. I mean it; these songs will latch onto your insides and eat your brain with their pointy little teeth.
Secret Songs begins with the lunging guitar hook and heroically crashing snare drum of “Bye Bye Roxie,” a world-weary tune of fast living similar in spirit to the restless vagabond of “Heads or Tails” by Shannon and The Clams from earlier this year.
The rest of the album is pretty equally split between venomous “Not That Good” style character slaughtering exposés (“True Vulture”, “It’s Pathetic” ) and sweet, puppy-eyed love songs (“The Birthday Girl”, “Lovin Lovin You”), proving Nobunny is just as good at put-downs as he is at cute, perky pick-ups.
“Pretty Girls”, originally by The Kids of Widney High (a group of special ed. high school students in L.A. who write and perform their own songs), is a perfect vehicle for Nobunny’s endearingly lusty, girl-crazy, skirt chasing persona (it’s what bunnies do, after all!). In his hands, it is transformed into a giddy, up-tempo punk rock pheromone spray which accelerates the pulse just like an adolescent boy/girl encounter at the soda machine.
The percussion throughout the album (and most Nobunny recordings, come to think of it) is marked by a thrilling, reckless exuberance of measured thumps frequently accented by fizzy cymbal bashes, like Pop Rocks dissolving in your ears instead of your mouth. The drums are played with great gusto and a real hearty panache, and the demented vigor of their crash-bang-wallop puts Animal from The Muppet Show to shame.
Unlike the last Hunx and His Punx record, whose unexpected snotty thrash direction often drew comparisons to Nobunny, there is a great variation of styles on Secret Songs. “Trouble In Mind” is an easy-going honky-tonk boogie full of bluesy guitar licks and a sustained shimmering hi-hat. “Lizard Liars” is reinvented from the skuzzy sludge which first appeared on Nobunny’s 2012 Record Store Day release, the MaximumRocknRoll EP. This cleaned up version with newly intelligible lyrics affords the listener a glimpse into a wacky sci-fi b-movie plot of mind control and alien sex trafficking rackets.
“Rotten Sweet Tooth”, with its bouncy drum stomp, maddeningly memorable whistling refrain, and vocals that sound like they were double tracked with the ghost of 1955 Sun Sessions-era Elvis Presley, is an orgasmic detonation of pure pop joy. “And I never thought it could be the truth, but I’m a dirty old man with a rotten sweet tooth”, Nobunny admits in his warm, wheezy rasp, and I would never rather have it any other way!
“Do The Stooge”, first seen in 2011 on the Chic-a-Go-Go show, sounds like The Trashmen collaborating with Hasil Adkins; a retarded, shambling hillbilly freak out that doubles as an ode to all that beautiful rock ‘n’ roll nonsense (papa oom mow mow, biff bang pow, bang a gong, wop-bop-a-loo-bop, rama-lama-ding-dong, gabba gabba hey, etc.).
Crankiness and stubbornly confining one’s self indoors has never sounded like as much fun as it does on “My Blank Space”, while “Little Bo Bitch” is as sassy as the black widow femme fatale described therein. “Red Light Love” concerns itself with relationship complications via fuzzy bass throb, a dominant two beat drum canter and a hypnotically relentless circular guitar riff. Its driving urgency is like an ambulance siren in power pop form.
One of the album’s strongest moments is the high-spirited serenade of “The Birthday Girl”, combining the simple strum of Wreckless Eric’s “Whole Wide World”, the jubilantly catchy organ hook of party classic “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love” by The Swingin’ Medallions, and the deliciously sexy, hiccuped stuttering of Joey Ramone. In fact, when I listen, I almost find myself re-enacting the sighing hysterical rapture of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School’s Riff Randell as Joey sings to her in her bedroom! It’s an ecstatic rave-up that is simply intoxicating with its rabid cheer, and it’s bound to become a birthday playlist staple for me. “Buried In A Bong” is a frantic 30 second self-disgust frenzy that I lyrically relate to more than any other album cut, and then things wind down gently with the adorable, Ray Davies-esque “Lovin Lovin You”.
Perhaps it’s the timeless familiarity of rock ‘n’ roll that makes Secret Songs such a pleasure to listen to, although of course it is all spun in an exciting new way that keeps you on your toes, Nobunny style. It’s like the embrace of an old friend – an old friend who just got discharged from the psychiatric ward and still has a habit of stealing women’s panties off the washing line…
NOBUNNY LOVES YOU!
NOBUNNY’s US tour kicks off next week at The Elbo Room in SF, CA, check out the official Facebook link below to find more details.
All words by Carrie Quartly, you can read more of her writing on the site here.