YOUR OWN REVIEW
The Village Voice, January 1, 1999
The most rip-roarin,' butt-kickin,' combo yet to bust out of the so-called
No Depression ranks. -- Holly George-Warren
Entertainment Weekly, June 12, 1998
"What's So Funny?"
Unremitting three-chord stab-and-slash fests (some quite tuneful), written
and sung by the guitarist/artist who painted the cover for Dinosaur Jr's
Where You Been. Angry Johnny delivers the '90s equivalent of Dock Boggs'
old Appalachian murder ballads. In 50 years, academics will ponder this
stuff, drawing conclusions about the dark side of the American soul. Will
Johnny snicker at their gullibility, or nod in assent? Only he knows.
-- Tony Scherman
Billboard, May 2, 1998
FLAG WAVING: "White trash music" is how Angry Johnny describes
the sound he and his band, the Killbillies, make their sophomore Tar Hut
Records album, "What's So Funny?," due May 5 through E-Squared/Alternative
Distribution Alliance. The Easthampton, Mass. based trio, which also includes
bassist Jim Joe Greedy and drummer Dwight Trash, plays a somewhat-befouled
mash-up of punk rock and country music, with distinctive black-comedy
lyrics sporting violent trailer- park scenarios. On several tracks, the
band is augmented by guitarist Eric "Roscoe" Ambel and members
of the local outfits The Lonesome Brothers and Steve Westfield & The
Slow Band, who bring a drunken Dixieland feel to some tracks. Imagine
Shane MacGowan or Tom Waits playing the Hank Williams songbook, and you
get the idea. Angry Johnny (who is listed in the Easthampton phone book
under that name) explains that his band's style was bred by a strange
confluence of influences. "I was listening to Black Sabbath, Alice
Cooper and Edgar Winter, but I couldn't play that," he says. "Punk
rock came along, and I could play that . . . I was raised on Tex Ritter
and Marty Robbins by my dad before that." The movies also had an
impact on Angry Johnny's weird worldview: He cites such bizarre B-pictures
as "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry," "Vanishing Point" and
"Race With the Devil" as favorites. You can hear echoes of these
oddball road pictures in such seething Killbillies narratives as "High
Noon in Killville" and "The Joneses." And let's not forget
another prominent band icon: Massachusetts bank robber Michael O'Driscoll.
"He's a Robin Hood [figure]," Angry Johnny says, 'He vowed he'd
never be taken alive. Now he's doing 315 years in a federal pen."
Aside from his cracked country music, Angry Johnny gets some kicks as
an artist. He has designed both of the band's album covers: Its 1996 debut,
"Hankenstein," featured Williams as Frankenstein's creature,
while "What's So Funny?" features a chilling portrait of killer
clown John Wayne Gacy wielding a bloody ax. He also contributed artwork
to a Dinosaur Jr. Set. "I must have painted a thousand fucking paintings,'
he says. "I've had a couple of shows. The art world never really
welcomed me with open arms." The Killbillies have developed a loyal
local following but not a young one, Angry Johnny explains. "Kids
don't seem to get this shit, and that's cool . . . our audience is old.
They drink whiskey, and they buy me a lot of whiskey." In May, the
Killbillies will play live dates in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Connecticut;
the band has tentative dates in the South and Mid-west this summer and
hopes to tour Texas in September. -- Chris Morris
STEREO REVIEW, October 1998
"What's So Funny?"
**** (4 out of 5 stars -- Excellent)
They're on the loose again. Set to thrashing guitars, saxophone, tuba,
and banjo, this sonata for serial killers is far too well done to dismiss
as novelty. But it's Angry Johnny's punked-up vocals and obsessed songwriting
that you'll really remember. Of course, after listening to this stuff,
you'll want to drive a stake through the heart of anyone who ever looked
at you cross-eyed. - Alanna Nash
Originally released on Tar Hut records