Rocket From the Crypt: greatest band of all time, or just the greatest band to have been formed yet?
I’ve been a fan of these guys since junior high days, but during university my appreciation for them increased exponentially, for whatever reason. There’s really no one else like them. They’re a punk band with a horn section, but they’re definitely not ska. The combination of the punk rock aesthetic, the flavour of the horns, and singer John Reis’s ridiculously manly voice gives them an almost 50s rock and roll kind of sound, and it’s great.
Reis himself has quite a pedigree. He was a member of the influential (and decidedly more technical) Drive Like Jehu, and also plays for the Sultans, Hot Snakes, and now that Rocket has (tragically) broken up, his new band the Night Marchers. He also runs Swami Records. I once read a piece that described him as ‘the last downstroke warrior’, and I don’t think I could put it any better than that if I tried.
This song in particular is a catchy number from one of their b-sides/rarities albums, the All Systems Go series. Like most b-side albums, they’re pretty hit-or-miss, but as the lead track on the second volume of the series, ‘Tarzan’ is rock solid. Greatriff, call-and-responsegang vocals, animals—it covers pretty much all of the basic Rocket From the Crypt trademarks. I also love the gender role reversal going on here; Reis wants you to be his Tarzan, and he’ll be your Jane.
Now that I think of it, it would be interesting to go through Rocket’s catalogue and note how many songs have references to animals in the lyrics. Or rather, how many songs don’t have references to animals in the lyrics.