Not Da Ramones

Saying (as we did last March) that Sacramento's Groovie Ghoulies sound like the Ramones is like saying Jan Crouch wears too much makeup—it's not merely obvious, it's really, really obvious. There's a Buzzcocks thing going on, too, if you care, though it's a bit subtler. But far overwhelming everything else, humming through every echo that rings off each guitar lick, is the spirit of Los Bros Ramones—you could honestly spin Fun in the Dark and make a guessing game out of which Ramones tune they copped for each song.

The similarities don't cease there. Lead hollerer Kepi's phrasing seems blatantly stolen from Joey Ramone—he even does that quirky ee-ee-ee thing. And, like you-know-who, the members of the Groovie Ghoulies prefer to go by obtuse nicknames instead of the ones with which they were born (Kepi is Jeffery Alexander; Roach is Rochelle Sparman, Kepi's wife; B-Face is Christopher Barnard; and Amy, their new drummer, as far as we know, is . . . Amy).

This tribute-but-don't-call-it-a-tribute isn't necessarily bad—the Ramones aren't together anymore, so someone oughta be out there waving the original punksta banner. Anyway, there are other bands, like the Huntingtons, that do an even more obvious imitation —black leather jackets, grease-ball hair, fuck-you sneers, the whole costume.

What sets the Groovie Ghoulies apart is their love of B-movie horror/sci-fi flicks, a lyrical theme that's held up through four albums on Berkeley's famed Lookout! Records (and a fifth, Travels With My Amp, out this April). Their scary-stuff obsessions don't reach Rob Zombie-like levels of outrageousness and pyro, though (mostly because, being indie and all, they can't afford it; the extent of their special effects is hurling toys and candy to the crowd during shows, plus some neat props). Instead, the Ghoulies are sort of like the Ramones as hosts of their own Saturday-morning cartoon show, with cute, funny songs about vampire girls, lonely planet boys, going to the moon, brain-scrambling devices and casting spells. If Art Bell had a punk band and learned how to giggle, or if Zombie were rated G, it'd probably sound like the Groovie Ghoulies.

The cartoon reference isn't far off: they named themselves after a similarly titled '70s kiddie show that was a spinoff of The Archies, a band of animated monsters that just happened to start a bubble-gum pop group. Pop is something both the fictional and nonfictional Ghoulies share: the Sacto Ghoulies' adorable, nifty, melodic punk and overall cutesiness are what makes them so wuvable (hug them! Squeeze them! Take them home!). They've covered everyone from Motrhead to Bob Dylan to Neil Diamond to the Monkees (and, yup, the Ramones), and they never seem to take themselves too seriously. But when your last album shoots off 13 songs in just under 30 minutes, as Fun in the Dark does, there's not enough time for grand, anarchistic pronouncements anyway.

Instead, the Ghoulies are about having a good time, an anger-free oasis on a current rock moonscape of mostly poseur-populated rage-rock swill, a non-segregationist band that wants to bring as many people into their weird, wacky world as they can.

"There are enough angst bands out there," Kepi said. "So I thought there was really no need for angst from the Ghoulies. We're more about melodies, something that'll make you smile. If you want hard, fast and angry, there are 99 other bands who'll give you that. We may not be superfast, but it's still cool."

The Groovie Ghoulies play with the Murder City Devils, the Catheters and Stavesacre at the Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (714) 647-7704 or (909) 629-0377. Fri., 7:30 p.m. $8. All ages; and with the Busstop Hurricanes, the Simpletons and Fred Wilson FBI at Linda's Doll Hut, 107 S. Adams St., Anaheim, (714) 533-1286. Sat., 9 p.m. $8. 21+.


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