By REID BRITT
There are several schools of thought when it comes to the Misfits:
1. Everything post-Danzig is complete shite.
2. The Danzig era is classic, but hey, this ‘90s stuff is pretty cool.
3. Wait, WHO’S singing now?
I’m actually in the 4th category: I like it all. Yes, even DEVIL’S RAIN.
Don’t judge me.
But today, we have not come to bury Jerry Only, but to praise the ‘90s Misfits. In this particular case, the second of the “New ‘Fits” albums, 1999’s FAMOUS MONSTERS.
Of course, Jerry’s pre-millennial kids (also including his brother Doyle on pummeling guitar, drummer Dr. Chud, and Michale Graves on vocals) were Misfits in the “band influenced by the Misfits” sense, as the songs were clearly far-removed and more metal than the earlier incarnation of the band. Graves certainly channels the stylings of Glenn Danzig at times, but he’s very much his own vocalist. Graves is the main reason this whole reunion worked, in my opinion. The Misfits aura lives and dies on the charisma of the vocalist, and Graves was definitely the fiend for the job.
The involvement of Daniel Rey, whose production similarly de-punked the Ramones (on HALFWAY TO SANITY, BRAIN DRAIN and ADIOS AMIGOS — awesome platters, all!), makes for a smoother, more melodic experience than the rawer WALK AMONG US or the foookin’ brooootal EARTH A.D/WOLF’S BLOOD.
Which isn’t to say that the songs don’t kick arse, because they most assuredly kick arse. After the “Kong at the Gates” intro, the album barely lets up, with only the ‘50s-esque ballad “Saturday Night” breaking up the momentum.
Now, if you are any sort of horror punk fan, you’ve probably figured out the E-Z Horror Punk Songwriting method, which consists of naming a song for a movie and then singing the plot. And of course the original Misfits, being the horror punk template, had their share of such songs (“Return of the Fly,” “Teenagers from Mars,” “Astro Zombies,” “Night of the Living Dead,” etc).
The New Misfits, even more so. Five of the FM tracks are direct movie riffs, title included: “Them,” “Pumpkin Head,” “Crawling Eye,” “Die Monster Die” and “Lost In Space” (which is an ode to the ‘98 Matt LeBlanc remake, not the campy ‘60s TV series; I’m guessing it was written for potential soundtrack inclusion).
Indirectly, the intro and outro reference KING KONG, “Forbidden Zone” is an homage to PLANET OF THE APES, and “Helena” (“If I cut off your arms, and cut off your legs, would you still love me?”) references BOXING HELENA. “Dust to Dust” — a fine, fine tune — tackles FRANKENSTEIN more from the self-reflective perspective of the novel’s monster than Karloff’s film monster.
Of the non-movie tunes, “Scream” is one of the Misfits’ catchiest songs — did I mention how damn catchy so many of these songs are? — and spawned a very cool George Romero-directed video. “Saturday Night” is a great chance for Michale Graves to shine on vocals, as is “Descending Angel”. “Living Hell” is just vicious. The only dud on the album is “Fiend Club,” a paean to the Misfits’ fan club, which is pretty silly (sing along: “WEEEEEE ARE THE FIEEEEEEND CLUB ... NOT YOU!!!”).
It’s frankly hard for me to believe it has been more than a decade and a half since this album lurched into my life in 1999. I’ve probably listened to it more than any other album in that time frame, and FAMOUS MONSTERS never gets old. From the Basil Gogos portrait of the band on the cover to the end of “Kong Unleashed”, this is a pretty damn perfect horror punk album.
That is, of course, depending on your Misfits school of thought. If you’re stuck on “1,” you’re missing out.
|The author and ex-MISFITS guitarist, Doyle.|