Maybe you are a goddamned sonofabitch after all....you ever consider that?
The Lineup Card (1977-2006)
Glenn Danzig (vocals) 1977-1983 also of Samhain and Danzig
Jerry Only (bass) 1977-2006
"Mr. Jim" Catania (drums) 1977-1978
Franche Coma (guitar)
A.C. Doyle (guitar) 1979-2002
Arthur Googy (drums) 1979-1982
Robo (drums) 1983
Michale Graves (vocals) 1997
Dez Cadena (guitar), after 2002 also of Black Flag
Marky Ramone (drums) after 2002-2006, also of the Ramones
The inventors of 'horror punk' - essentially Ramones-y 4-floor flailing sucked through a filter of late-night scare flicks and dime-store demonism, the Misfits are only notable because their lead singer has gone on to make a certain something of himself, and because every band that's come out since 1982 that plays music on the hard side of, say, Van Halen has counted the Misfits as an influence. To the base definition, they were a more violent, forcebeat version of Kiss minus the misogynistic sex (and plus the necrophilic sex) - unlike a lot of punk bands who had at least a rudimentary mastery of their instruments (no one can tell me Johnny Ramone couldn't play a guitar - you try to play like that for an hour straight! Your elbow would swell to the size of Camden, Ohio!), the Misfits were musically pretty ripe. They got over on two things: their striking visual component and Glenn Danzig. Like Kiss, they wore white makeup that played them up as ghoulish denizens of someplace disgusting, wicked, and crude (Texas, possibly), but unlike Kiss they may have actually been a tad bit scary. They slung themselves around the stage like, well, like punk rockers, pulled their jet-black hair down in a dagger-like spike hanging between their eyes (the famous Devillock, not to be confused with Condoleezza Rice's hellish pompadour), and at least Glenn has a reputation of punching out audience members with his muscle-bound, short-guy-complex-infected fists.
Ahh, Danzig...give it up to the guy. Lay naked right down in front of the guy spread-eagled with a dull look on your face and seek the happy place, he's got a cool voice. The guy half sounds like Elvis, half like Jim Morrison, and when he started out he barked like Joey Ramone. (The band half-attempted to play like said Ramones, but were too fucking awful to carry it off). The band essentially dicked around recording EPs and playing a lot of uber-confrontational live shows before finally releasing a full LP in 1982 (their peak Walk Among Us) and following it up with the thrashier Earth A.D./Wolfsblood in 1983 before being broken up by Glenn, who went onto form the dark-metal Samhain, who later morphed into early 90's sleaze metallers Danzig.
The continued success of Danzig in the 90's, coupled with the 1995 release of the Misfits' never 'officially released' first album (Static Age, originally recorded in 1978-1979, and released in a reconstituted format on 1985's Legacy of Brutality collection) marked a resurgence in the band's popularity, one that bassist Jerry Only and guitarist Doyle decided was ripe for a comeback. Against Danzig's angry dwarf wishes, the 'Misfits' reformed in 1996 and has since resumed touring and (ugh) releasing albums, and apparently will keep doing so until they run out of horror movie titles to plunder for their songs (they're already down to naming new songs after such cinematic leading lights as "Mars Attacks", "The Haunting", and "Leprechaun 5 - Leprechaun in the Hood").
I really can't say most people need a Misfits album, not unless one is 14 years old, undersized, and pissed that mommy won't let you stay out and jump your skateboard off the handrail outside the 7-11 until midnight every night. This is scary t-shirt punk, nothing more. As much as Danzig's enthusiasm comes across, this music is dirty-bastard hardcore of the third tier, the same kind of grinding chainsaw eighth-note-bonanza any group of 14-year old dumbshits from Western Montana could figure out in an afternoon in the paint shed. The coolest thing about this band is the t-shirts, and if that doesn't spell 'poseur' out for anyone to see, I guess you just haven't grown up and left the soft, 98.6o womb of your mommy's house yet. There's no reason to be afraid of astro-zombies or devil dogs or demon-possessed Cheese Danishes when there's people willing to blow themselves up for the opportunity to fuck 6 dozen virgins, now is there?
Like any decent hardcore LP, Static Age is short as shit (less than 35 minutes, which is still an eternity when it comes to Misfits records), reuses the same song format at least six or seven times, and cops liberally from its recent betters. Though the FistMitts recorded this more than three years before its follow-up, Walk Among Us, the difference in sound between those two albums isn't really all that great. Both are essentially Ramones records with worse hooks and grungier guitar tones (but a similar reliance on chord sequences first used on Dave Clark Five records). It's also got some oddly slow tracks - 'Static Age' is more of a plod than a jackhammer, not to mention being something of a thematic precursor to Judas Priest's 'Electric Eye'. 'TV Casualty', is pretty much the same fucking thing (except the hook is ripped off from 'Pretty Vacant', now isn't it?), but with its lyrics about unanswered birthday cards due to unchecked TV addiction and creepy, disembodied I Love Lucy samples make it the most fun thing on the record. 'Last Caress' has Glenn taking an almost romantic tone as he sings 'I Got something to say! I killed a baby today!", (sheeit...he almost sounds like Morrissey at some points *digdes hail of bullets*) but the music here is just godawful flat. 'Return of the Fly' is just the opposite. Whenever Jerry Only turns up his bass and coaxes out that croaky, fuzzed out heckling noise, the songs immediately get more interesting texturally. I just can't get behind something that's an homage to a sequel to a campy (though far from scary) Vincent Price movie.
There's a point at the beginning of 'We Are 138' where the band almost seems to realise they've spent half the record playing at puss-wad speed and they kick it in to the next gear, right in the middle of the first verse. The guitar spins out a wicked little lead line, and the thing careens into something approaching excitement. Finally - the band seems to be warming up. 'Teenagers from Mars' is the most fun of the monster-movie songs - the title is so ridiculously campy, and the chorus so damned cheerful, the shift to a darker dynamic on the verse is emphasized. This is one schizoid song, although I realize for sure that two dimensions are always better than one. 'Come Back' is just inexcusably boring - Glenn sounds like he's one of those half-speed Romero zombies half-heartedly chasing an overweight teenage girl whose brains he's really not all that hungry for. Six minutes of this 'Cum Bayack!' shit is evidently supposed to honor the '69-era Stooges and their own interminable disaster areas like 'We Will Fall', but God knows why they'd want to do that. Buy that Coma guy a wah pedal and try to make something that sounds like 'Dirt' if you're gonna try to do the Stooges, boys. 'Angelfuck' and 'She' are other second-side winners, but to get to them you're gonna have to do your share of the work...survive several more boring pieces of shit like 'Spinal Remains' and 'Attitude'.
One note: 'Theme for a Jackal' has some of the stupidest, most inept piano playing I've heard outside of a Billy Joel record, and I love it. The song blows, but whomever that is pounding away like they're Nicky Hopkins with a headcrab attached to his face gets my vote for Ballsiest Guy on the Record.
Static Age has some moments, but it sure doesn't deserve having been released on three separate occasions in different track listings (on Legacy of Brutality, the Box Set, and here, reportedly in the best of the available mixes). I don't come close to getting off on many of the songs, and the band doesn't even try to Misfits-ize many of the songs - too many times, I was thinking that this could be just about anybody singing about disembodied hands and murderious fruit bats and whatever other shit this band sings about.
Capn's Final Word: I want my Elvis-from-Hell, not my Ramones-from-Jersey.
Legacy of Brutality
- Caroline 1985
A post-breakup packaging of early days (1977-1981) stuff - 8 Static Age tunes (for the most part sleep-inducing) plus a few of the best songs the band ever dropped from their collective birth canals - 'Who Killed Marilyn?' (answer: Sasquatch, who was working for J. Edgar Hoover at the time and was required to wear frilly girlie panties whenever he met with the Boss) 'Where Eagles Dare', with the absolute classic hook line 'I ain't no goddamned sonofabitch, you better think about it baby!', and the hilarious, convincing rockabilly sendup 'American Nightmare' (Glenn does Jerry Lee Lewis, and it swats heiny). It never got better than this for the Misfits. Unfortunately, here we're hamstrung by a terrible drunkard-at-the-mixing-board recording that kills the vibe and makes enjoying these songs a fucking chore. Like mowing the lawn or trying to figure out what the fuck is happening on Lost.
Capn's Final Word: Partially a poseurish mess, but partly scary and convincing as a home invasion. I really doubt too many people had reservations about Rollins as a singer after this, though.
- Slash 1981
Not quite 13 minutes, but worth finding just to hear a (mostly) decently recorded pre-Walk Among Us Misfits band play like they've left the iron on and Glenn interact with the audience like he's actually not too short to get on the Spinning Teacup ride at Disney World. I tell ya, there's something to that 'little dog' syndrome with short guys. I'm on the taller side of average (6'2"), and every time I've felt like someone's been trying to pick a fight with me, they've been shorter than my Mom. I guess it's something about every time you have to reach between your legs to pull the car seat two feet forward just to reach the pedals, every time you have to pull up a stool to get something off the top of the refrigerator, you wish the world was dead. Well, Glenn Danzig may come across like a rat terrier with hot sauce on his nuts (he shouts 'One more time, you asshole!' in the middle of 'Horror Business' like he's substitute teaching middle school shop class or something), but I like the way they play here. The garbled attempts at unison vocals on 'Horror Business', the bass on 'London Dungeon' (these guys should collaborate with Iron Maiden - maybe they can set up some sort of song title exchange program or something), all of 'We Are 138' (featuring Henry Rollins and his enormous ego! It's must've been an extra large stage that night...) other than the fact that it's evidently being recorded from the inside of a car driving away from the venue at 70 mph....
Capn's Final Word: I tend to overrate hardcore live albums.
Okay, nothing here comes within a Smurf's penis of being as good as 'Where Eagles Dare', but this one at least has earned its reputation as an entertaining, juiced-up party record. The tempos are kept up, the guitars are clear, and every song features liberal use of the term 'Whooooaaa!' by the background guys. Hey, did you know Glenn Danzig wrote these songs in their entirety? Twiddled down the guitar and bass parts all by his lonesome, he did, our little white Satanic Stevie Wonder. I guess that explains why the songs still mostly sound just like one another. Listen - I know it's hardcore, a genre with more restrictions than Guantanamo Cell Block E, but that doesn't mean you can't vary the drumming a bit, give the songs a bit of a groove, play a fucking lead line every once in a while. I mean, would it have killed them to at least give the songs a few more overdubs (like 'Vampira', which sounds 10 times as hard and heavy for the simple fact that they recorded two guitars on it instead of just one, and at a few points in the song had them do different things from one another.) And this is considered to have been radical for the hardcore world - no politics, a few 50's throwbacks, the fact that Glenn sometimes forgets to hide the fact he has a personality - this stuff was weird for that scene. I guess for me, having heard this band deliver a few killer hooks in their day, shitty songs like 'Nike A Go Go' don't and can't cut the Grey Poop-on. What gives with 'Hatebreeders' and 'Nike', anyway? (They then do it again later on with 'Devil's Warehouse', which is fucking rectal swill, and 'Astro-Zombies', which is fun as shit) Why would you put two songs so bloody similar to each other one right after another like that? Career suicide? A suppressed Status Quo obsession? The fact that no one in this band really knows what the fuck they're doing? I like all three, thanks.
Listen, hardcore punk is nihilistic, I get it. You're supposed to do things the quick and dirty way, putting too much thought into things kills the effect, it's only rock 'n' roll, blah blah blah. So why is it that the only song on here that kicks my ass for true is the live 'Mommy Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?', which sounds like a Fidel Castro speech sped up 500 times and backed up by Slayer. Why is this band totally incapable of creating a mood of darkness or doom in their music, as they apparently have never figured out how to play anything but major barre chords in their lives? If this is supposed to be rock to shock, well...go ahead and fucking shock me. Singing 'I Want Your Skull' just sounds gay, guys.
Now, on the other hand, if you approach this album as I'm sure it was intended, as a party record for slamming Hamm's tall boys, giving yourself knitting needle tattoos, and spinning around until you hit your head on the exposed brick apartment wall, it's great stuff. Perhaps as much as the Ramones, the Misfits are some of the earliest progenitors of today's My First Punk Band groups like Blink 182 and, well, whomever the fuck else is out there selling their t-shirts at Hot Topic to fat, pale chicks in black lipstick and too-tight chenille skirts. Those la-la melodies and 'whoas' on the choruses, those not-too-heavy guitars, those Big Major Chords, that heartthrob singer - this stuff is playhouse punk rock for little kids who don't get that it's a big, dumb joke playing dress up like this. In this way, the album's great stuff...the dull moments only occur every once in awhile, and they always follow those up with a better attempt at the same song. Sure, it's cheap and immature, and it has none of the intellectual content of a Ramones record (who could be said to have had a certain genius in their self-aware singlemindedness), but it's nearly as much dumb fun. And what kid doesn't like dumb fun when two years before they were collecting Pokemon cards and arguing over which Dragon Ball Z character could beat up on whom. It's a short jump from there to the Misfits, my friends.
Capn's Final Word: They can't really play, they only put a hook on every other song, they're about as scary as a burnt sienna Crayola, but they do entertain, after a fashion.
I'm sure someone knows why this album is titled this way - I certainly couldn't give a shit. I'm just not convinced by this dumbfuck attempt at turning the semi-winning Misfits formula into forcebeat thrash - when Glenn sings this fast, he just sounds idiotic. 'Death Comes Ripping' is supposedly the highlight of this record, but all I hear is a really terrible speed metal song that would've likely come from some Belgian metal act with a name like Codpiece. Is playing fast and not saying 'Whoa!' every five seconds all it takes to impress hardcore fans that this album is 'scary' or 'intense'? I'll give them the credit that they do pull the faster tempos off cleanly - they're far from being as sloppy as they had been on their first few albums, but I'll tell ya, it's not like they're playing 'Eruption' here, either. Flailing eighth note barre chords at 160 bpm is not a particularly crafty skill. Playing like that for an hour without any breaks between the songs, yet still maintaining a sense of melody like the Ramones - that's impressive. Singing like Danzig did on 'Astro-Zombies' - that's impressive. This? This is nothing crap for people who don't know that thrash metal exists, or are too afraid to let go of their precious punk-rock training wheels to admit they actually like something Metallica did a thousand times better.
Best song? 'Die Die My Darling', evidently a leftover from the Walk Among Us era, which sounds like nothing else on the record and earns this thing an extra 'plus'. Call me a dick, let me know you hate me for putting down your favorite record, but if you think Earth A.D./Wolfsblood is heavy (and that is the only goal of this record - to be heavy) I've got at least three dozen other records to introduce you to that rip the bowels out of this record.
Capn's Final Word: Take out the party element and all you're left with is a grumpy little self-serious cartoon. Fast, yeah, but about as intense or 'scary' as a half-melted red Creamsicle.
American Psycho - Geffen 1997
Lemme say right now that Jerry Only and Doyle have about as much right to put on silly white makeup and tour around as the Misfits as the masseuse and jock-strap washer have of calling themselves Minnesota Vikings - Danzig wrote and sang all the songs, not to mention maintained a career after the breakup of the Misfits. Doyle and Only got religion instead, therefore reducing whatever minor sense of threat or doom in the Misfits music down to an absolute zero. Not like they're fun at all, either. They're just as self-serious singing about terrible early 80's David Bowie movies ('The Hunger') as they are singing about terrible late 90's Jack Nicholson movies ('Mars Attacks', which has to have been one of the least entertaining pieces of shit ever shot. I'd rather watch videotapes of my mother in law gardening than that humorless slag.) The only good part about it is that the guitar melodies, well...they're okay! Musically, it's way too Nerf-y sounding and glossed-up, but I don't have any problem at all with what the guitars are doing. Oh, it's nothing you'll remember after the song is over, but 'Dig Up Her Bones' has a pretty decent little Priest riff, doesn't it?
But, alas, there's my positive spin on the Onlyfits for the afternoon: Doyle's just as good a guitarist as he's ever been. They have absolutely no one to sing this shit, though, and what you get is a sort of lead-vocal-by-committee since the guy that actually has the job title is probably the worst of any of them. Ever put your hand (or other fleshy appendage of your choice) over the hose of a vacuum cleaner conenction? That honking, sucking, whispery sound? Michale (no, no sic, I swear) Graves sounds like that, except you'd have to put one of those godawful ridiculous Devillocks on your palm first. Those of you not having girlfriends for several months may be able to go ahead and do this right now. That's right. A bit of gel, now pull it down....perfect! Now be at Phil's Brewhouse in Erie, Pennsylvania by 8 o'clock tomorrow night. The New Misfits want you to do a couple of gigs for 'em. Don't forget the extension cord for your vacuum.
Capn's Final Word: This album irritates early and often unless you can somehow program the ProTools in your head to elimitate everything but Doyle altogether.
- Roadrunner 1999
Now 53 minutes is still batfuck, pushing-Gramma's-wheelchair-into-the-East-River, Tom Cruise-rabid fucking insanely long for a Misfits album, a species that should never, never run longer than it takes the Brady Bunch to go from breaking Marcia's nose to laughing knowingly at Bobby's closing quip, but this album really isn't too bad if all you're looking for is cheap Nerf thrills and some zippy electric guitar. As the Misfits, Jerry and Doyle are still 95-pound weaklings - they'll convince nobody with their songs with topics ripped from the headlines of today's 1985 drive-in movie marquees. Yes, the late-nite Elvira Show kwayzee madness continues with songs about offing witches, a John Carpenter tribute ('Thing'), one about Pumkinhead (?...?!?, I mean I know I've said it before, but WHY FUCKING PUMKINHEAD? Why not the Toolbox Killer? That guy in Hellraiser that looks like a full-grown sow that's been playing KY Jelly Slip
N' Slide all day? Phil Donohue!) and two songs about King Kong and that sickening 'Boxing Helena' movie about that bitch who gets amputated for the jollies of her sick boyrfriend/captor. Yeah, the constant slew of half-baked creepy crawlies that populate Noo Misfitz albums is about as inspired as the last season of Happy Days (and only slightly less dated), but the unrelenting, unflinching trashiness of the whole thing, dammit, it's got some attractiveness, Steve Austin! Now, I don't remember the American Psycho album I reviewed a few weeks back other than it stank despite some good guitar work, but Famous Monsters darn near doesn't stink at all, and it's got the same good guitar work to ram it through the border guards and truck it up to Hookerville. A whole near-hour of it can get damn tiresome, but Doyle's fuzz-fest, overcompressed electric green guitar tone, coupled with his too-clean-for-punk thrash riffing actually constitute a legitimate sound for these fakers. It's obvious these guys are trying to suckle off the teat of late-90's My First Punk Bands like Blink 5150 and Sum πr3h and those assholes in Offspring who refuse to accept that they are actually Offspring 1523308.33333, which, considering their legendary history, is sadder than watching Danny Glover slur his drunken ass through a bit part in Saw. But Doyle is still a reasonably fearsome guitar player, ripping off B+-quality chunk riffs on nearly every song. Listen to 'Die Monster Die'...listen to the glee he exudes as he pulls those brief double-time flails and diving fingerslides - you may have heard it a million times before, but that doesn't make it not great, does it? The songs are better than I remember them being on the last one, but they still pretty much write the same damn song over and over, so how hard can that be? As long as the tempos are fast and Doyle is playing hotter than the world's biggest boiling vat of Velveeta Cheese, this album has a place in this world. Hell, most of the original Misfits material, 'real' though it was, wasn't as compelling guitar-wise as this album is. Of course, the mighty Danzig battlecruiser could still blast this band's dingy straight to splinters, but let's at least give a half-hearted cheer for the scab Misfits' second album, and here's to hoping they get away from their TV for a few days and maybe experience a bit of real life. Then write songs about it. And cover all those pesky lyrics up with more of this glorious guitar work.
Capn's Final Word: I bet these guys blow live, but as a slightly better tonic to the monosyllable Fisher Price Punk of the late 90's, they sure can record a cool sounding guitar.
Cuts From the
- Roadrunner 2001
Buncha demos and leftovers from the nothing-if-not-prolific Son of Miss Fitz, including a suspicious number of tracks that sound identical to those released on American Psycho and Famous Monsters (I'm listening to 'Helena 2' right now, having just heard the version on FM. If there's a difference between the two, I'm a 90 pound gay Argentinian woman with a strong blues allergy and a hankerin' for pecan pie.). Maybe part of this like one of those cheap-ass greatest hits compilations that record companies liked to foist into stores in the Sixties - once a band had gathered enough jizz to record a second album and release another single or three...BAM! Greatest Hits time. Think Them, or the Troggs, or just about any other band that had at least two recognizable hits in the Sixties. Hell, Dave Mason essentially re-released his debut album like four or five times with different titles, and he was just the guitar player in Traffic for a year.
The highlight is a pseudo Black Flag reunion with Dez Cadena on mic and Robo on drums for a live cover of the hardcore core-lassic 'Rise Above', but I also sorta like the ascerbic guitar on the delightful 'I Wanna Be a New York Ranger', which I can only hope was used by the hockey club to draw tens of thousands of enthusiastic families to the hockey arena, where they'd be exposed to some of the most disgusting, overpaid, underachieving excuses for professional athletics since the New York Knicks, who I heard just signed a Chilean palm tree to play center the other day. Shit, man, it's 32' tall and weighs two tons - just plant him by the side of the paint and watch the shot blocks add up. It's supposed to be a MONSTER rebounder, too, but tends to hog the ball and gets a lot of back court violations. It still won't suck as bad as Marbury, though.
Lord only knows what kind of cynical, underhanded corporate drones thought this album warranted release, but they got their wish...now it's been reviewed on a crappily run little website that draws in excess of, oh, 3 or 4 hits a day by a guy who spent all of 3 and a half seconds 'analyzing' this record.
Capn's Final Word: Huzzah, you greedy fuckholes.
Project 1950 - Misfits 2003
Okay, so I suppose the wad was officially blown on Famous Monsters and the 'artistic wellspring' (think a foul bead of sweat dripping off a docker's armpit) has dried up, but that doesn't mean Jerry Only is willing to chop off his devillock and go back to scraping fugitive french fries from the bottom of the Burger King fryer, oh no. Despite the loss of Doyle to a sinister and horrifying disease called 'realising you're, like, 45 years old and you're standing onstage in skull makeup playing stupid pop-punk songs about the Creature From the Black Lagoon to a bunch of 7th graders who think Green Day invented punk rock', Jerry's bounced back with a band of punk rock ringers (former Black Flag guitarist and vocalist Dez Cadena on guitars, former Ramone drummer Marky on skins, plus former Blondie-ite Jimmy Destri guesting on keys) to cover a bunch of pre-Beatles rock/doo wop songs in their now completely ossified uptempo Ramones/Motley Crue hybrid style. Jerry Only is now the sole vocalist as well, as he sings like his mouth is about three times too big and he's lost total motor control over his tongue. To say he sounds like Herman Munster is not exactly accurate - hearing Fred Gwynne cover 'Donna' or 'This Magic Moment' could've constituted a legitimately funny, if short lived, gag ala that William Shatner album 'hip' ironic-pants people have been snatching up since 1993. As Only sings them, they just suck. Some of the songs are somewhat obscure ('Latest Flame' and 'Only Make Believe' are not exactly what I'd call household names), but that doesn't matter - the Misfits Lasik-with-a-battleaxe boneheaded crudeness renders each of the songs interchangeable. Dez's guitar is rougher, more mid-rangey, and less audible than Doyle's, resulting in the vocals being pushed even further up into the mix's rectum, right where they don't belong.
It's not like the kids gave a shit. Whomever is left in the Misfits loyal fanbase after the release of three bullshit ripoff releases (the Cuts from the Crypt 'rarities' disc, the covers album, and a frigging lounge remix record released last year that I'm never going to subject myself to) and the loss of the next-to-last 'original' member has got to be either a closet kitsch addict or a makeup fetishist who can't afford Kiss tickets. It's like Menudo with underage Latino beefacke - as long as the devillocks are in effect, you could put Henry Mancini and Joni Mitchell up onstage as Misfits members and someone would say it was the best punk rock ever. Well, you can shove prime rib down your shorts and hang out in a bear cage at the zoo and call it oral sex, too....
Capn's Final Word: Cheap ripoff product that I can only hope made enough dough to pay the rent money for Dez, Marky, and Ronnie Spector for a couple of months. Any more than that and God is just playing a huge trick on us with this 'life' thing.