It's nice to be able to pick up something you once liked in your younger days and still find something to admire. Growing up a punk kid in South Jersey, I found it hard to find punk music. Sure, I could pick up the whole Pink Floyd discography and shuffle it about with Zeppelin, but the Sex Pistols? Black Flag? There was no way in hell I was going to find any of THAT at the local record store.
But this album flew in under the radar. Because it was a movie soundtrack, and because the movie was new at the time (I had seen it in the theatre and rushed to the store to see if I could finally find some music that people I actually identified with listened to), the Wee Three (or whatever) records actually had this one in stock.
And there it was--my first education in punk music, followed shortly thereafter by the soundtrack to _Repo Man_, the only kind of punk music that slipped through the fishing nets of banality surrounding South Jersey. I have gone on to absolutely adore The Cramps, but am slightly saddened that I have rarely heard a song by them as absolutely catchy and singable as "Surfin' Dead." This was also my introduction to The Damned and The Flesheaters ("Eyes Without A Face" is without doubt the most raucous track on this disc, something to play loud on the boom box when walking down the street just to make the old biddies get out of the way). There are also some heavily synthed 80's style new wave on here, with SSQ and The Jet Back Berries, but with metal like 45 Grave's "Partytime (Zombie Version)," one needs not feel at all embarrassed. And if you are looking for your soundtrack for when you've been partying too hard and have little left in you but to stare at the ceiling and sing out some lyrics, Roky Erickson's "Burn the Flames" is just the thing.
Even better than a good intro to some good punk bands, this soundtrack nicely captures the essence of one of the best zombie movies of the 80's--a good predecessor to _Shaun of the Dead_, in that it is a zombie movie that is very cognizant of the standards of zombie movies and plays around with them. This is also the probably the ONLY movie with fast zombies that I like--which makes me feel a little hypocritical, for I have vocally despised the fast zombie trend since what I thought was its inception recently...but then I had a reminder that this movie also has fast zombies, and I must admit that I am quite fond of this movie.
Not every punk soundtrack I was able to score in the early to mid 80's proved to be this good in retrospect. There is no denying the impact of _Repo Man_, which I wrote about earlier, but then there was the soundtrack to _Desperate Teenage Lovedolls_, which spun on my little fold-out turntable many a times on my violent youth, but now offers little of interest.
For this one, I will merely quote The Cramps on the first track: "There's nothing on the radio when you're dead. / There's nothing at the movie show when you're dead. / There's nowhere left for YOU to go when you're dead, / So do the dead."
That about sums it up. A classic album.