Friday, March 19, 2010

Review: Mad Sin - "20 Years of Sin Sin"

For over 20 years, Germany’s Mad Sin has been one of the premier psychobilly bands in the world, releasing some nine studio offerings and touring the globe multiple times over. This two-disc combo seeks to chronicle both their studio output and live abilities as demonstrated by the recording of a 2006 show at the Henry Fonda Theater in Hollywood, California.

Disc 1 is a collection of studio tracks from an assortment of different sources. Five are brand new recordings, two are unreleased tracks from Survival of the Sickest, and the rest are covers and rarities. Despite the obvious handicap of a German band singing in English (aside from a cover of Ideal’s “Ich Kann Nicht Schlafen”), they pull it off fairly well. The highlights of the disc occur when singer Koefte Deville pushes the potential of his melodies and pulls out some great hooks, like on the frantic psychopop of “Rusty Nails.” The excellent rock ‘n' punk of “Dirty City” neglects too many psychobilly clichés while Deville sings, “I've lost my heart and soul to the place where I belong.” Mad Sin’s cover of Torment’s “Psyclops Carnival” is entertaining, with its timid upstrokes and tickling xylophone, while the other covers (Adam Ant’s “Viva La Rock,” the Tall Boys’ “Ride this Torpedo” and the Rockats’ “50 Miles to Nowhere”) are good, just not really anything to write home about.

Hollywood was probably the best possible location outside the band’s native Germany to record a live show, since the Greater Los Angeles area has arguably the most thriving psychobilly scene in the world. The band powers through 15 songs with minimal interruptions, which are certainly solid musically but none really stand out that much. The sound occasionally gets a little muddy (which is probably to be expected on live psychobilly recordings) but overall it seems to capture the essence of a Mad Sin live show. The high point comes when the band breaks into the chorus of the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” amid the frantically thumping double-bass and triple-time rhythm of drummer Andy Laaf on “Sell Your Soul.” Fan favorites like “Communication Breakdown” are present alongside the catchy “All This and More” and a frenzied psychobilly cover of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “I Shot the Sheriff.” Who knew psychos liked Rasta reggae?

20 Years in Sin Sin is a nice anniversary release to give fans a taste of some Mad Sin that was previously unavailable. Casual observers of psychobilly may not find too much to get excited about on this release, but followers of the band throughout any of their 20 years should be happy with this two-disc package.

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