ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM POP-O-PIES -- The White EP (415 Records 415A- 0009). THE SHOW POP-O-PIES with Pulsellama at the 9:30 Club on Friday.
The Pop-O-Pies have one great joke and they tell it twice on "The White EP" (which of course isn't white). The joke is on the Grateful Dead, one of whose anthems, "Truckin'," gets rehabilitated for '80s sensibilities in both a punk and a rap version. It's hard to pick a favorite: The punky version sounds like an album cut speeded up to 78 rpms, an early Velvet Undergound trying to cover "that hippie anthem" and having to substitute lyrics when memory fails. It's wonderfully frenetic, like an ex-Deadhead's revenge (lead singer and songwriter Joe "Pie" Callahan, in fact, hails from New Jersey, which was Dead Country long before it pledged allegiance to Springsteen).
The rap version of "Truckin' " is not only hilarious, but also inadvertently betters Blondie's best efforts in the genre. It's certainly more taut, with a funk rhythm track right on the edge and Callahan's rap wiseacre tight. The ending even degenerates into a delightfully nonsensical mish-mash.
The album's other four songs have promising titles (including "The Catholics Are Attacking," "Timothy Leary Lives" and "Fascists Eat Donuts"), uneven lyrics ("Bake these donuts in extra grease / This batch is for the chief of police!") and familiar musical settings (calypso-cum-reggae for "Catholics," energetic post-punk for the others). "Leary" sounds a bit like electric Tom Lehrer, with a funny vocal takeoff on an acid guitar break.
Punk has little enough humor, so the Pop-O-Pies will be welcome until they overstay their ragged but right routines.