After years of depending on campy formalism to obscure their lack of songwriting ability, San Diego’s Rocket From the Crypt have emerged with not one but two pretty swell albums. Primarily a singles band–they’ve put out no less than 15 in the last four years–RFTC have long specialized in retooling rock ‘n’ roll cliches with punk-rock energy, but while they’ve intermittently hit on the right combination, for the most part their songs have rested feebly on either a riff sliver or a singsongy chant. Their last proper album, 1992’s ridiculously overrated Circa: Now (Interscope/Headhunter), garnered them significant publicity, but mostly for their appearances–they’ve a penchant for 50s greaser wear. On their new Hot Charity, released only on LP by the bogus Perfect Sound label, they’ve buttressed their songs with the blaring trumpet of J.C. 2000 and the squawky sax of Apollo 9–in the past they’ve only added deadening clutter. “My Arrow’s Aim” recycles a number of familiar riffs with impressively bustling energy, while “Shucks” incorporates novel Latin accents, the equivalent of Leonard Bernstein’s pan-Hispanic dabbling in West Side Story. The forthcoming Scream, Dracula, Scream! (Interscope) is even better. Strewn with dozens of bits appropriated from rock ‘n’ roll’s extravagant history, it’s been assembled with no uncertain panache: the inclusion of a string section, horns, and elaborate backing vocals seems at odds with Rocket’s chooglin’ attack, but somehow they make it work. To promote Hot Charity the band’s on a brief tour consisting mostly of free shows. This is one of them. Sunday, 9 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/C.I. Drageset.