The members' faces may be painted in ghoulish makeup, but their dress is strictly Vegas, circa 1963. The Tonz play swingin' covers of tunes about death (Alice Cooper's "I Love the Dead"; the M*A*S*H theme, "Suicide Is Painless"), songs by bands considered dead or linked to tragedy (Van Halen's "Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love," the Beatles' "Helter Skelter") and lounge standards ("Fever," a superb version of "Mack the Knife"). The group also throws in a few cadaverous originals ("Her Last Chance to Dance," "The Tale of Necrophilia"). Many of these songs are on the band's debut, Are You Dead Yet?, but the act's acknowledged gimmick is best enjoyed live during its indefinite Sabbath-night gigs at the Orchid Lounge.
We went to the band's recent Houston debut. The air was heavy with the mingled scents of clove cigarettes and fresh tattoo ink as goths and swingers co-existed peacefully amid the jumpin' jives laid down by the quintet: Necrophilia (singer/undead temptress), Mike the Mangler (sax/flute), Smilin' Jack the Ripper (guitar), Glooo (bass) and a drummer who's not the one pictured on the CD. (Maybe Spinal Tap was on to something.)
The band played competently, with flashes of brilliance, but Necrophilia's campy, death-shtick stage patter -- great for October -- wore thin by the second set. The rug-cutting Orchid regulars (Betty Page cuts and saddle shoes for the chicks, dangling pocket chains and pompadours for the cats) didn't seem to mind as long as Glooo slapped that bass and the Mangler blew his horn.
And you probably won't, either, so down a martini to the fiendishly fab sounds of the Necro-Tonz. That's how Sammy and Dino would have done it. Frank, too -- though, at the moment, baby, he's stuck in this mortal coil.
-- Bob Ruggiero
The Necro-Tonz: 9 p.m. Sunday, April 26. The Orchid Lounge, 2415 Dunstan, 524-0228. $3.