The deadest garage band around couldn't fit into today's trendy garage-rock scene if they wanted to. Self-proclaimed kings of budget rock The Mummies rose straight from the tombs of '50s rock and '60s garage, bringing along dirty, vintage instruments, muffled recording, and stripped-down, snarling energy. The Mummies, who came to life in 1988, may be dead (they returned to their graves in '92, but were briefly resurrected in '93 and again in '94 for European tours), but they left a priceless treasure behind, and it's a gloriously fucked-up one at that.
The Mummies, a quartet comprising lead singer/organist Trent Ruane (formerly of Untamed Youth and the Phantom Surfers), drummer Russel Quan (who played with the Phantom Surfers, Count Backwards and The Bobbyteens), guitarist Larry Winther and bassist Maz Kattuah (current Phantom Surfers drummer), first rose from the dead in 1988 with an affinity for mocking '60s fashion-driven garage and a diehard drive for catching the dirtiest, most lo-fi sound around. Their debut LP, Never Been Caught, was released on vinyl by Telstar Records in 1992; Telstar released it on CD for the first time in 2002. The re-release included that album's original 17 tracks plus an additional five, including a cover of The Beatles' "I'm Down."
Shocking the underworld for a second time, the band opted again to put out a gasp CD this year, making many of their hard-to-find or out-of-print singles available on one handy CD. The new CD, called Death by Unga Bunga!!, acts as a sort of Mummies best-of collection, drawing from a variety of '45s and EPs, including their entire Planet of the Apes EP, the B-side, "Your Lover," to the 1992 single Stronger Than Dirt, and "Uncle Willie" from the 1994 Norton Records compilation Turban Renewal: A Tribute to Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs, bringing the reissue to a total of 22 raw, sloppy boom-shake-boom songs.
Death is so thoroughly inspired by early '60s garage (with small doses of surf and rockabilly), it'd be easy to mistake the record for a gem from the past (and I'm talking long before '92). The infectious, upbeat "Food, Sickles & Girls" is what they want, what they want, yeah, yeah, yeah, while "Your Love" is what they need "to kiss you and hold you tight." The latter tips its hat to Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band with its driving, pared-down rhythm. The thrashing, threatening "I'm Gonna Kill My Baby Tonight" reveals a rebellious punk influence, while the raw (well, they're all raw) "(I Should Better Be Lookin' for) Dangerman," exhibits a blues one. Led by ultra distorted vocals, "That's Mighty Childish" swaggers and thrusts, the dark, fuzz-drenched "(You Must Fight to Live) On the Planet of the Apes" pokes fun with a straight face, and "Babba Diddy Baby" features Chuck Berry-like licks, pained screams and the beat, the beat, the beat.
The Mummies kill it, kill it dead, and it's glorious.