Bunnygrunt leader and erstwhile record-label magnate Matt Harnish has been putting out his annual Christmas compilations for nearly seven years. And while that season tempts local bands into either jingle-bell schmaltz or sacrilegious mayhem, the inaugural Halloween disc is a better fit for many groups whose sound already tends toward the spooky and bizarre. The junk-shop blues of the Rum Drum Ramblers is perfectly suited for a collection like this one: The slowed-down rockabilly vibe of "Black Cat Boogie" sends shudders with a barbed-wire guitar and a vocal delivery that's indebted to Gene Vincent, Tom Waits and Frank Black. Likewise, Bad Folk's "Corrido de los Muertos" argues for folks to pay proper reverence to the Day of the Dead. The arid-desert arrangement would make Calexico proud, and the recording, aided by members of Rats & People, is one of the band's best yet.
Unlike the Christmas comp, there aren't many "traditional" Halloween songs to cover: Bass Amp! (the project of Sex Robots/Pubes drummer Maysam Attaran) reworks the only bona fide Halloween classic, "Monster Mash," turning it into a full-throated raver. Bunnygrunt's Phil Spector-indebted "Bombie Zombie" gives a nice pinch of girl-group sweetness with Karen Ried's lilting vocals about an explosive ghoul and a bom-bom-bom (or rather, bomb-bomb-bomb) chorus. The brain-hungry undead also appear on Googolplexia's accordion-fueled "I Dated a Zombie," a short and sweet ode to the challenges of romancing the living impaired. A Very Bert Dax Halloween does what its fellow Christmas collections do best: It gives local bands a chance to try something a little different, and in turn, to get listeners in the holiday spirit. That said, is it too soon to ask about A Very Bert Dax St. Patrick's Day?