If nothing else, it must be said that the winning band was the one with the best name. That wasn't why Goddamn Draculas took the title in this year's Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble over its competition, but every little bit helps. And at Friday's sold-out finals at T.T. the Bear's, those bits added up to what Rumble organizer Anngelle Wood called "a healthy margin" over runner-up Petty Morals and third-place Await Rescue.
But while Goddamn Draculas wore matching t-shirts (after removing bloody button-downs before a note was played) and made a canny appeal to audience participation with Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls," the heart of their win rested on songs that threw back to tough but glossy early-'80s power-chorded arena rock (and the occasional “Ghostbusters” reference). It was a spirited cocktail, spiked with frontman Chris Duggan singing in a pinched tenor rasp more commonly found in Irish punk.
Wildcard pick Await Rescue's material wasn't quite as strong, although it had being a band down cold. Minus the visual aesthetic, that is; they were the only group in competition without a clear one, unless "beards" counts. The riffs had the mathematically of metal, but all the instruments fused together into one rock-hard hammer of sound.
The Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble Finals, With Goddamn Draculas, Petty Morals, Await Rescue, and special guests The Information
Nobody, meanwhile, was having nearly as much fun as Petty Morals, which is as good a reason as any why they lost. Their color scheme – black, leopard print, hot pink – and the "Friendship Rumble" badges they gave their competitors could have been aggressively twee, but the verve and spunk with which they attacked their Josie Cotton-ish beach-rock, girl-group garage punk and fiery disco-rock more than compensated.
Playing its first show in five years, the Information took the bill's exhibition spot so the judges could tally the votes, and the group's muscle-boosted take on panicked New Wave romanticism – akin to Mission Of Burma playing the Psychedelic Furs – proved an excellent capper. Max Fresen sang like an exposed nerve trying to hold it together, and the band's bright churn rose and washed over him to powerful effect. There's always a risk that the Rumble's established act will show up the competitors. That it didn't happen said less about the Information than about how much the others brought it at the showcase the Rumble is.