Music Reviews

Death By Unga Bunga, by The Mummies

The Mummies--Death By Unga BungaSelf-proclaimed and rarely challenged “Kings of Budget Rock™,” (yes, you read correctly, that is most certainly a trademark symbol), The Mummies came out of a garage in California to play/bomb dives in the late 80’s and early 90’s with their surf/punk/garage rocking assault and formidable presence. These mono-stars rolled out of their tombs to gigs in a classic ‘63 Pontiac ambulance. They arrived swathed in full mummy garb, decrepit, cranked and ready to lash ears with hard and dirty grooves.

But don’t freak out. They’re not after your soul. The Mummies don’t give a shit about anything but the tune. Especially you. Looky here: “The Mummies are not your friends. The Mummies don’t tweet, twat, connect, share, like, friend or give a damn.” —That particular response of theirs to the social media maelstrom of the twenty-first century is culled from their official website, as is this, their truncated biography: “The Mummies were a stupid band. This is their stupid Website. You cared about them enough to get this far. Now you are stupid too. That’s the Mummies’ curse.”

They’ve released some albums—The Mummies: Play Their Own Records (1992), Never Been Caught (1992), amongst others. Bootlegs have surfaced. A few splits and numerous singles have been released, all in the early to late 90’s and mostly through the Estrus and Telestar labels, (dis)respectively. All the while the compact disc format The Mummies have left to the other monsters, and somewhat angrily at that—the words “fuck C.D.s” are to be found riding the covers of a few of their records. No tender resolve marks that truculent stamp.

Or does it?

Time pushes all to the edge, even The Mummies. The dawn of the twenty-first century saw something improbably weird stagger out of the shady unknown: a compressed collection of fuzzy jams documenting modern day encounters with some bitchin’ ancient anger. So it is, a CD release bearing the name of: The Mummies! Yes, a spectacularly lo-fi punch to the ear, Death By Unga Bunga (2003).

The songs found on Death By Unga Bunga traverse The Mummies’ turbulent recording career, with many of the well-known choice cuts from their scratchy, lo-fi oeuvre represented. For better or worse (depends how you feel about the sound quality of the records mostly), such gems as “That Girl,” “Stronger Than Dirt,” Food, Sickles & Girls,” and “(You Must Fight To Live) On The Planet Of The Apes,” underwent (suffered?) a technological upgrade.

If there’s anything The Mummies love more than vengeance and trouble, its vinyl, surely. But like their patience with you and the rest of your race, records on the market bearing their name are nearly nonexistent, not to say that they were ever plentiful. The few left and up for sale don’t come cheap. In fact, your budget-rock fix may cost a pretty penny, and like a good joke, that’s awfully funny and a trifle sad.

That being known, for all its all-over-the-place sound quality, the zany motley that is Death By Unga Bunga is no less a pleasing assimilation of tracks from the band’s back catalog. It’s crass (“In & Out”), angry (“Die!”), sordidly amusing (“Dangerman”), at times hilarious (“The House On The Hill”)—a solid introduction to the band’s aggressive, DIY, no bullshit, fuck-the-music-industry ethos.

Take out a loan, get the LP’s, or have this and get a taste for some fine free-and-easy-who-gives-a-shit-lets-just-play freedom.

The Mummies