The Misfits reimagined as a brass-tinged lounge act? “Yeah, sign me up” he says sarcastically.
I suppose it's no secret that I'm a huge Misfits fan. I have the box set, CDs, T-shirts, vinyl, and a variety of little things adorned with that ubiqutous silver skull. I've always maintained that the band represented a great leap forward in both punk rock and heavy music, influencing a diverse number of acts from spooky, goofy ska acts like the Independents and “serious” mainstream rock acts like Metallica.
The reason it probably worked so well was because the band began with such a limited instrumental vocabulary. As musicians they certainly weren't proficient, and aware of those limits, the band took advantage of their biggest asset, the singer and songwriter Glenn Danzig. Glenn, who possessed both an ear for melody and an incredible voice was two parts Roy Orbison, one part Elvis with a dash of Joey Ramone.
The band's “hook” was certainly a unique one as well, with their unending devotion to the spooky, the gross and the absurd. It takes a certain kind of lyrical genius to write a line like “Brains for dinner / Brains for lunch / Brains for breakfast / Brains for brunch / Brains at every single meal / Why can't we have some guts,” but while some people may dismiss the band as no greater then their B-movie shtick, the band also had a knack for menacing but incredible catchy melodies and possessed an unerring ability to deliver them in a performance. “She” with its minimal accompaniment of electric piano is absolutely carried by Danzig's vocals; “Last Caress” is about as lyrically objectionable as you can imagine, even decades later, but because of a melody so riveting it could crack concrete, the song is deliciously memorable.
So what happens when you strip away the powerful vocals, buzzsaw guitars and relentless pace? Well, you might get Misfits Meet The Nutley Brass: Fiend Club Lounge, a collection of Misfits tracks performed so innocently that I wouldn't be surprised to hear them over the PA at my local department store. While the record is no substitute for the originals, the reinterpretations really do reveal how incredibly solid the songs really were. The test of a songwriter, of course, is to take away all the stylistic flourishes and strip it down to the melodies; a truly great song will work either way, and in a way, Fiend Club Lounge is the ultimate example of that experiment.
The album leads off with “Last Caress” with Glenn's vocals replaced with a soaring trumpet, bells and what appears to be a clarinet. Next, the band breaks into a horn and organ section for a performance of “Astro Zombies.” A sitar kicks off “Where Eagles Dare” before a 50's style girl pop version of “Some Kinda Hate.” “Teenages From Mars” is probably about as weird as you could imagine, performed like the opening moments of a Broadway musical. “Die, Die My Darling” closes out the album, performed like it should accompany the climax in a James Bond movie.
In the end, Fiend Club Lounge is clearly a novelty performance; it has no pretensions about supplanting the Misfits, or even standing alone as a work, but for fans, it's a fun, and -- dare I say it -- “cute” look at the Misfits.