Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Johnny Cakes and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypso make beach-rock with attitude

March 13, 2010

I’ve been recently developing a theory of rock and roll that is currently at this state: It’s no longer a particular sound that’s rock’n’roll; it’s a particular attitude. That attitude consists of flagrant disregard for what popular culture would say is tasteful or appropriate, and a snarling disdain for any strictures of that social culture imposed (successfully or not) on said music, lyrics, or musicians.

This would make Johnny Cakes and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypso a thoroughly rock’n’roll band. Their embrace of the rock’n’roll attitude can best be summed up in a disclaimer that they themselves chose to put on the back of their Rise of the Pink Flamingos: “Johnny Cakes and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypso are well known degenerates and are not responsible for any degeneration caused by listening to this album. If, while listening to this album, you feel a strong desire to damage public rest rooms or sing songs about butts, seek medical attention. Also, feel free to send the band your money and/or naked pictures of your girlfriend.”

With such a loud endorsement of hedonistic excess and flagrant disregard for social niceties, it’s almost unimportant what this album sounds like. Fans of crazy, wild rock’n’roll will listen and enjoy. People who are easily offended will be offended. Not a difficult dichotomy to strike.

The music contained within Rise of the Pink Flamingos is a surprisingly cohesive mix of breezy pop, surf rock, ska, punk and calypso. The nine members of the band (plus four costumed dancers, according to the one-sheet) make music that sounds like the musical accompaniment to a frat party on the beach: lots of juvenile references to sex, upbeat singalongs, adrenaline and goofy jokes, all in the name of having a good time. The bright colors and wild fonts of the album’s art are another good sign of how Johnny Cakes rolls.

With titles like “Pee in the Butt,” Scooby Doo Me” and “Commando,” as well as thank yous to Luke Atmyas, Ima Weiner, and Ineda Shower (and those are the cleaner ones), it should become abundantly clear to you whether or not this is the type of thing you should invest in or not. I am pretty grateful to Johnny Cakes and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypso, as they only strengthen my fledgling theory of rock’n’roll. It’s all about the attitude here, and if you don’t like that attitude, well you can get on out. Johnny Cakes is still gonna keep on being what they are: rock’n’roll.

Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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