The Misfits - Static Age (Cover Artwork)

The Misfits

Static Age (1997)

Caroline


Okay, this one is a bit of a cheat for 90’s week, because Static Age, as we all know, was recorded in 1978. Of course, the album wasn’t released until nearly 20 years later as part of a box set in 1996, and wasn’t released as a stand-alone album until 1997, making this the 20-year anniversary of the album’s extremely belated release. I think Static Age is often seen as the weakest LP of the original Misfits catalogue. It doesn’t have Doyle on it, it’s got a much more Ramones-esque punk sound than their metal-heavy later work, the band didn’t seem to be motivated to get it out for 18 years after it came out, and it’s the only one recorded before they officially decided to declare themselves a horror punk band (which I have some issues with that I’ll discuss in a second). But Static Age is my favorite of the Misfits’ albums. Maybe it’s because I bought it as a young teenager being allowed to take the bus all the way into the city to buy a CD with my own money from my job at the movie theater, and I thought that was cool as hell. Maybe it’s because the CD sleeve came with the story of how the album was made, and I thought there was some gothic/punk romance to the story. Or maybe it’s because I’m more of a punk fan than anything else, and I love that Static Age is the most straight-forward, Ramones-esque punk album The Misfits ever put out. So I’m going to make my case for Static Age being the best of the Misfits albums. (We all know that every album with Danzig is better than every album without him, so we don’t even have to throw any post-Danzig nonsense into the comparison equation.)

That story of the album’s creation that I fell so in love with was this: In 1977, The Misfits put their first single out called “Cough/Cool,” on their own label that Danzig made up and called “Blank Records.” A few months later, Mercury Records accidentally released a Pure Ubu record on an imprint they named “Blank Records,” not knowing that the name was trademarked. Rather than throw money at the problem, Mercury records decided to offer the Misfits recording time instead. But Mercury only offered 30 hours of graveyard shift time, which is kind of a raw deal. 30 hours probably would have been best used to record an EP, but the Misfits were determined to produce an LP. So they practiced the shit out of all their songs before they got into the studio so that they wouldn’t have to do a lot of takes, and they performed all the songs live in the studio. I’m sorry, but if that isn’t punk rock as fuck, I don’t know what is.

Recording overnight added to the spookiness of the album, which, even if it was made before they settled on the idea of being a horror punk band, is definitely a horror punk record. When the album isn’t talking directly about B-horror movie fare, like “Teenagers from Mars” and “Return of the Fly,” it’s going into shocking and horrific events from history like Kennedy’s assassination in “Bullet” or Patty Hearst robbing a bank along with her kidnappers in “She,” or it’s just serving up some straight up brutal and visceral imagery like “Last Carress” and “TV Casualty.” Danzig’s lyrics are so jarring, vivid, and disturbing that even in 2017 when I hear something like “Hold on, I think I have to puke/There’s a spot in the corner where I always go/I like to feed the flies that I know” I still find myself thinking “I can’t believe someone put that in a song.”

And what’s more is that these shocking, vivid lyrics are accompanied by some of the most beautiful melodies that the Misfits ever produced. Danzig has a beautiful singing voice that my friends back in high school dubbed “Death Metal Elvis.” His voice really shines as he croons the melodies to “Some Kinda Hate,” “Hybrid Moments,” “Come Back,” “Angelfuck,” and “Hollywood Babylon” to name a few. So there’s this wonderful juxtaposition of a musical beauty unlike anything in punk at the time, and truly shocking and vivid imagery in the lyrics, resulting in a punk rock masterpiece.

Some people who read my other work on this site know that I’m always one to call out something messed up and offensive, and might be wondering why I’m not saying anything negative about “Last Caress” with its famous line “Well I got something to say/I raped your mother today.” It brings to mind one time wandering around O’Hare Airport with my most activist, far-leftist, male feminist friend following behind me singing “Last Caress” over and over again, and me having to remind him that that’s not an appropriate thing to be singing in public with children around. Look, rape is a horrible thing and I don’t think it should be joked about, but at the same time, early punk was an art form that shock value was essential to, so I tend to give it more leniency than I give other things. And Danzig doesn’t give us a great amount of detail about this rape, he just mentions it for the shock value and moves on. Honestly, what I have more of a problem with is “Attitude,” which is far more detailed in its blatant misogyny and straight-up threat of domestic violence. There’s nothing over-the-top enough in it to suggest that it’s hyperbole, it’s just 90 seconds of Danzig saying sexist things to a woman. I said in my review from Ramones week that songs like this song and The Ramones’ “Loudmouth,” and The Descendents’ “Catalina” are very unfortunate, misogynistic blights on the early history of punk. And it’s a shame because “Attitude” has a beautiful melody, too.

Despite that one flaw, Static Age is a mindblowing album, and doesn’t deserve its reputation as the weakest one with Danzig. Static Age was created under very difficult circumstances, and still came out as a near perfect album. Even though it wasn’t released until 18 years after its recording for a number of reasons, most of its tracks were gradually released on other compilations and EPs over the years and became classics. But it stands together so much better as a complete album of violent, beautifully melodic, hard-rocking horror punk. Static Age is an unabashed masterpiece that sticks with you long after you listen to it. It’s the best album from the original Misfits lineup, and therefore the Misfits’ best album.