HorrorPops – Live at The Wiltern (Live Album Review)

For their first-ever live album, the Psychobilly titans in HorrorPops celebrate their return by delivering a double disc that is chock full of fan favorites. Cleopatra Records gifted us with this beautiful madness back in June 2021.

It has been nearly a decade since HorrorPops, known for their psycho blend of Rockabilly and Punk, have graced any stage with their powerful presence and even longer since they have released new material. Led by husband and wife duo Patricia Day (vocals, upright bass) and Kim Nekroman (guitar), who share the stage with the Drummer Henrik “Niedermeier” Stendahl, the threesome traces its roots back to Europe—Denmark, to be exact—but has long since opted to call Los Angeles home.

Here they formed in 1996 and would go on to craft three full-length releases—2004’s Hell Yeah!, 2005’s Bring It On!, and 2008’s Kiss Kiss Kill Kill—over a four-year span, actively writing, recording and touring between 2004 and 2008. Back then, their cross-genre blend of rip curls, B-movies, and skanking flesh-eaters was, of course, little surprise to fans of Nekroman’s day job, Nekromantix, but what about now? Do the misfits and ghouls still want to party with a Punk Rock pin-up queen?

Clearly the answer is yes. Case in point, when the band finally returned to the stage in California, in February 2020, fans across the globe were elated. This is a fact that makes Live at The Wiltern extra special, as the 2-disc, 19-song (well, 18 and an intro) collection captures a splendid return to form for the undefeated punks, both sonically and visually. This makes the record not just the band’s first-ever live release, but a multimedia experience meant as an homage to those who have kept HorrorPops’ world alive: the fans.

Split into two discs, each with a Side A and Side B (like cassettes—yes, we are old!), Live at The Wiltern refuses to make a spectacle of itself, instead honing in on the band and their talents. Some banter between Day and the crowd makes the cut, sure, but there are no tweaks meant to make their musicianship more refined for record: This is HorrorPops in their element, uncensored.

They usher us into their world with an intro that is worthy of their name, setting the stage for some serious bass boogie, and it all begins with “Julia.” Allowing freedom to race through their flowing tresses, they outrun the sirens of “Thelma & Louise” before Day hits her vocal stride on “Kool Flattop.” Apropos crowd pleaser “It’s Been So Long,” thumping “Hit N’ Run,” and the longing and regret of “Dotted With Hearts” provide plenty of inspo for audience goers to skank their hearts out. And the same can be said for the trio of tracks that round out Disc 1: “Baby Lou Tattoo,” “Freaks in Uniforms,” and “S.O.B.”

In terms of fan favorites, one might say that Disc 2 carries a greater weight. Plus, there are quite a few extra special moments captured here, such as when Day and her cohorts raise a toast to their dedicated fan base (“Undefeated”). But it’s the bratty Punk influences that shine through on tracks like “MissFit” and “Psychobitches Outta Hell” that highlight the hunger for performing that still sits at the heart of this band. From Day’s soaring vocals on “Everything’s Everything” to their harmonic flex on the infectious “Ghouls,” ounce for ounce the most luminous offerings are mined from this half of the collection. Here, we  get the chance to giddyup to “Girl In A Cage,” stroll through the cemetery on “Walk Like A Zombie,” then close it all out with crowd favorite “Miss Take” and the massive “Where They Wander.”

In this, Live at The Wiltern is a collection that bears witness to the return of a trio who understand a little thing called personality, and they use this to cultivate a rare, symbiotic relationship with their fans. Channeling their enthusiasm for their craft, love of B-movie gems and the music of yesteryear, their siren’s call pierces the heart of each like-minded misfit, building a home for those who desperately need to skank, headbang, and strut all of their cares away.

It’s definitely nothing close to rocket science, but does it need to be? With a beautifully raw, honest experience that is just as apt to draw in new fans as it is to appease die-hards, Live at The Wiltern packages the joy of reuniting with old friends. For this, Cryptic Rock gives HorrorPops’ first live collection 5 out of 5 stars.


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