Anyone remember "grebo"? If you're not from Gen-X's first decade, you might not know that grebo was a short-lived style of melodic, harder-edged driving rock, with a style characterized by greasy, dreadlocked hair, ripped denims, and biker tattoos. The genre was inspired by the likes of Alice Cooper and Motörhead, and attained a measure of prominence in the U.K. around the same time that hair-metal dominated the States, filling the cultural gap before the meteoric rise of grunge and Brit pop.
Grebo's most visible, chart-topping elements were popular MTV acts such as Pop Will Eat Itself, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Doctor & the Medics, and The Wonder Stuff. Even more dance-oriented acts like EMF and Jesus Jones -- and anthemic hard-rockers The Cult -- were tangentially connected to that vibe. Yet the one area that contributed the most bands to the grebo scene was the East Midlands town of Leicester, with indie groups such as Gaye Bykers on Acid, Crazyhead, and the raunchiest act of them all: Zodiac Mindwarp & the Love Reaction.
Originally conceived by Flexipop magazine editor Mark Manning as a fanciful persona taking a jab at the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, the character of Zodiac Mindwarp became larger than life after the success of the 1988 debut album Tattooed Beat Messiah. Zodiac's salacious lyrics and psychedelic-Nazi-hoodlum appearance (nothing Judas Priest didn't do) could be taken as tongue-in-cheek or as outright offensive, depending on your sense of humor or level of political correctness.
What's amazing is that Manning has kept up this alter ego even after the band fell into obscurity. Over a decade later, on 2002's I Am Rock album, he's still growling praises of "Helsinki Motorcycles," indulging in biker rape fantasies ("I'm gonna make her come like a waterfall"), and generally pillaging and plundering in the figurative sense ("20,000 women and I still want more").
Although this piled-on obscenity almost seems quaint after the gangsta-rap era, Zodiac forges ahead down the smoky Reeperbahn with original guitarist Cobalt Stargazer (once a member of Wham!), and has a new DVD of the band's early days in tow, called Pandora's Grisly Handbag. That is, when he's not writing transgressive novels with Bill Drummond of U.K. avant-pranksters The KLF, or using his graphic art skills to paint guitars and motorcycle helmets. So put on your grebo gear, rev those engines and go, if you can handle the rock.
Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction with The Cheats and The Luxury Pushers. 10 p.m. Wed., Oct. 1. 31st Street Pub, 3101 Penn Ave., Strip District. $10 ($12 at the door). 412-391-8334 or www.31stpub.com
- Tattooed beat messiah: Zodiac Mindwarp