Swamp Zombies – A Frenzy of Music and Action! (1992): Forgotten series

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NICK DERISO: Four Dobie Gillis types, including brothers from Irvine, Calif., the Swamp Zombies were notable for having some amount of ability on all manner of instruments, but also at the clanging of pots and pans.

They remain a great pop-music (or punk folk, I guess) example of what can go right when a band is willing to move out of the middle of the road. “Frenzy of Music and Action!,” a fun ride, floors it right into the ditch — blending surf boogie-woogie, grunge rock, mariachi, punk, pop, calypso and folk.

One of only five long-players issued by the Swamp Zombies between 1987-94, “A Frenzy of Music and Action!” might have at first appeared to fit into a long line of then-hip post-Violent Femmes-Dead Milkmen offerings. But the Zombies were one of the few with an outsized sense of humor. (Their third album, called “Scratch and Sniff Car Wash,” was actually scratch and sniff — you know, a little burning rubber mixed with some motor oil.) That’s kept the music relevant into the next decade.

The most traditional-sounding folk song to be found here is actually called “I Bawled.” A couple, I don’t think, make any sense at all. That’s part of the group’s charm. It’s like your favorite all-you-can-eat pig-out lunch place was in charge of the playlist. So you get titles like “Go Go Boots,” “Johnny Quest” and “Oddball.”

They also added some new instruments to the sound collage on “Frenzy,” refusing even then to get too caught up in the whole electric guitar thing. More like cheesy farfisa (courtesy of the multi-talented Steve Jacobs) and accordian, with the usual shaggy-dog results.

The Swamp Zombies — which, after a 1997 break up, spun off groups like The Tiki Tones, The Calypso Cats, Tombstone Bullets and Trucker Up — don’t run the gamut. They streak through it.

Nick’s note: Josh “Shag” Agle was not only the banjoist, he also did retro-cool cover art for the band.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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