The mystery punk from The Dead Next Door | The Listener | Chicago Reader

The mystery punk from The Dead Next Door 

Is there a better place to find a pseudonymous hardcore song than a low-budget 80s zombie movie?

click to enlarge The 2017 release of the expanded soundtrack for The Dead Next Door
  • The 2017 release of the expanded soundtrack for The Dead Next Door

Since the summer, my buddy Nick and I have convened weekly to watch movies through Squad, a chat app with a screen-share function. For months, Nick has evangelized for free streaming site Tubi: it's got lots of forgettable 2000s comedies featuring famous actors who've scrubbed those jobs from their CVs, plus tons of the absolute trash we both love, including way too many movies produced by Full Moon, a churn-'em-out horror-film company that makes Roger Corman look like John Carpenter.

For the record, Tubi also hosts some legitimately great films that are hard to find elsewhere. One of the first movies Nick and I watched together on the platform was Furious, an imaginative 1984 kung-fu flick I never thought I'd be able to see. I hadn't found it streaming anywhere else, and only Amazon was selling the 2015 DVD release—provided you could come up with around $200 for a new copy. More recently Nick and I watched another cult film on Tubi, a plucky 1989 zombie movie called The Dead Next Door. I bring it up now because of a song on its soundtrack: Wilbur & the Hoodlum Patrol's "Death & Violence."

  • This restored trailer for the 1989 zombie movie The Dead Next Door was released in 2015.

The writer and director of The Dead Next Door, J.R. Bookwalter, made the lovingly chintzy synth music that comprises the bulk of the soundtrack. I don't know much about the musicians who recorded "Death & Violence," but they sound like they're doing a spot-on impression of an early hardcore band figuring out what to do as the tape rolls—the heavy-footed drumming sometimes falls behind the beat, and the crude riffs stumble through tempo changes that arrive so often that the guitarist never quite seems to catch up with what's happening.

I recognized the song from a later zombie movie that Nick and I had already seen—the far less coherent 1990 film Ghoul School—and hearing it again made me wonder if "Death & Violence" had been a favorite in whatever tiny midwestern punk scene birthed it, passed around on cassette mixes or played late at night on college radio. The Dead Next Door was made in Akron, Ohio, and I know too little about the 80s punk scene there to make an educated guess. My online searches for "Wilbur & the Hoodlum Patrol" turned up next to no information pointing in either direction.

I e-mailed Bookwalter last week to ask about this mysterious band, and he told me that "Wilbur & the Hoodlum Patrol" was a pseudonym for a local band called Argus—they made music for The Dead Next Door, his debut, and for at least one more of his early films. Bookwalter also pointed me toward the Facebook page of bandleader Mick Corcoran, who has yet to reply to my out-of-the-blue inquiry about punk songs he made decades ago.

Bookwalter released his synth score for The Dead Next Door in 2008. At that point, watching the movie was still the only way to hear the Argus recordings—two punk tracks as Wilbur & the Hoodlum Patrol, two country songs under the name Willie & the Wagon Wheels, and a heavy rock song as Argus—but that changed in 2017, when they appeared (alongside four other additional tracks) on an expanded edition of the soundtrack. I think "Death & Violence" belongs on a third-generation dubbed cassette, but I'll settle for Spotify.  v


The Listener is a weekly sampling of music Reader staffers love. Absolutely anything goes, and you can reach us at thelistener@chicagoreader.com.

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