THE DIGGERZ: Mad In The Head
Release year: 2022
Label: Sick Taste Records/Sunny Bastards
A little while back, we took a look at German The Diggerz’ recent EP release The Diggerz Are Mad (click here). That one was basically just a little appetizer for this, the group’s second album, although three of the four tracks were exclusive for the EP. But, let’s put the album in focus and dig a bit deeper into what makes these Germans tick.
As mentioned in the aforementioned review, The Diggerz released their debut album way back in 2015. A Psycho’s Tales was a whole other kind of creature in comparison to how the band sounds now, seven years later. Where that was a decidedly old school release taking its cues from the heyday of late 80’s neo/psychobilly, this time around the band has turned their eyes to far more contemporary bands, and beefed up their sound – an observation we already made in the review of the EP.
The cool thing about Mad In The Head is that after some initial mental readjustment, it’s easy to see the band have handled the update in sound quite admirably. I admit that for the first few listens, I had a hard time accepting the change: where’s the old school sounding band whose debut album I spun quite a lot back in the day? Who are these guys playing modern psychobilly and why have they stolen that other band’s name? I suppose it’s quite natural to react like this at first, and maybe even feel a bit disappointed. But given a bit of time, Mad In The Head doesn’t leave one unsatisfied.
Opener Night Out is stylistically very close to the modern US-style sound of bands like The Brains (yes, I know they’re Canadian, but they’re still one of the brightest proponents of the modern US sound currently). But take a track like Your Loving – also found on the EP – and you can easily hear far more traditional stylings beneath the veneer of modernity in the sound. The guitars on the latter track definitely owe a heavy debt to the speedier, more punked up second wave bands of the late 80’s and early 90’s.
And that’s where The Diggerz have grown as a band, and matured in their expression. The debut was basically all about that old school sound and style – luckily, the new album isn’t all about new school sound. The emphasis is there, true, but more timeless and old school elements are easily and frequently found. And so, after the initial shock and confusion, it’s easy to see that whilst a lot has changed, The Diggerz are still acknowledging their debt to the long and winding history of the genre.
Of course, stylistic approach alone won’t cut it. You have to have good songs. And, happily, in this aspect The Diggerz have retained their quality – and even improved. The biggest flaw of the debut album was that though the sound and approach was very much to my taste, it didn’t have the kind of memorable songs that’d stick with you. This time around, although still not delivering future psychobilly anthems, The Diggerz have crafted a number of catchy songs that’ll stick in your head for a while.
Apart from the two songs mentioned above, for example The Devil Lies is a solid piece of psychobilly rockin’, but ultimately The Diggerz deliver the most memorable moments when they deviate from the psychobilly blueprint. Taker is a succesful amalgamation of psychobilly and country, continuing a fine tradition that has throughout yielded classic tracks for a number of classic (and more obscure) psycho bands. Album closer The Last Serenade, a duet with Clockwork Psycho frontwoman Clockwork Lilith, takes a real left-field turn; eschewing frenzied slap bass rockin’ for a slow, dramatic murder ballad, it almost steps into Nick Cave territory!
A couple of years back, far too often new psychobilly releases left me wanting. Too many albums were trite, uninspired, generic regurgitations of stuff others had made before and better. Positive exceptions did of course exist, but were few and far between. There is still a long way to go before the scene reaches the high level of the latest upswing from the noughties, let alone the iconic years of the second wave, but albums like Mad In The Head make one carefully optimistic that things are finally looking up. Especially since The Diggerz are not the only band making one excited about psychobilly.
As nice as the debut album was, it seemed to me like it never made big waves in the psychobilly scene back when. Perhaps it was just released at the wrong time, when the fortunes of psychobilly started dipping. Whatever the case, with a solid second album such as this, The Diggerz have every chance of getting the attention they deserve. And psychobilly fans would do well to give these Germans the time of day.
Let’s just hope it doesn’t take The Diggerz another seven years to reach album number three!
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