“The other day someone candidly described my voice as being like a cross between Nick Cave and Ethel Merman,” offers Reid Books when attempting to explain the sound of his band, the Horrible Department. “But I consider myself a crooner who gets angry and yells occasionally.”
Still, a spot somewhere between Cave’s gothic murder ballads and Merman’s absurd theatricality wouldn’t be a bad place to begin describing the Horrible Department, which is celebrating the release of its vinyl-and-download debut, “Capital I and the Royal Waltzing We.” The music comes from a Brecht/Weill-inspired musical that premiered at the Rotunda last April.
Books grew up in North Jersey listening to punk, and that initial interest has, over time, accrued additional influences — from Samuel Beckett to Astor Piazzolla to Woody Guthrie — to land on the Horrible Department’s distinctively theatrical sound.
“My continuing interest in punk is its use as an aesthetic playground,” Books says. “The aim is to replicate various states of claustrophobic delirium and frustrated irrationality. The music and words are meant to tell a very confused story with universal themes.”