Hey there fellow tourists! I can’t believe it has been over five months since I shared my last souvenir with all of you. I hope that during our time apart you experienced a lot of rad adventures and good music, because I sure did. While out on my travels during the last five months I collected souvenirs from far and wide to share with all of you. Since Halloween is fast approaching I thought that it would be fitting to share a souvenir from a dark corner of my home land of punk. If you haven’t guessed it yet, the Souvenir of the Week is the album Famous Monsters by the founders of horror punk, the Misfits.
Naming the band after the last film Marilyn Monroe completed, Glenn Danzig formed the Misfits in 1977. Bassist Jerry Caiafa, who would later become Jerry Only after a mispelling of his last name on a record sleeve, was recruited shortly after the band’s formation. Jerry Only and Danzig were consistent band members until they disbanded in 1983. Later, after several years of legal battles with Danzig, Jerry Only would win the rights to reform the Misfits in 1995.
Wasting no time the Misfits were resurrected with Jerry Only on bass, Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein (Only’s brother) on guitar, Dr. Chud on drums, and Michael Graves on lead vocals. With this new lineup the Misfits released a live album and two full length album before they disbanded again in 2000. Although Famous Monsters was the last album that this short lived incarnation of the Misfits put out, in my opinion it is one of the band’s best works.
The first track, Kong at the Gates, is a perfect introduction to the album. This short instrumental sets the mood for the entire album and leads perfectly into the next track Forbidden Zone, which talks about the plot of the classic science fiction movie The Planet of the Apes. In these two tracks the listener is perfectly introduced to the sound of the Misfits; the heavy hitting drums, the heavy metal inspired guitar riffs, and the sci-fi/horror movie subject matter of their songs.
All three of these aspects of the Misfits sound can obviously be found all throughout the album but some prime examples are the tracks Crawling Eye, Scarecrow Man, Witch Hunt, and Them a song based off of the 1954 sci-fi film of the same name that is about giant irradiated ants.
While maintaining the tried and true punk tradition of a fast and hard sound throughout this album, the Misfits also take a more melodic and clean approach with their vocals. While most punk bands don’t necessarily concern themselves with melodic vocals, horror punk bands have made them a staple of the genre. Michael Graves’ vocals on this album are a perfect example of this approach and at times clearly show the doo-wop influences on the genre.
Songs such as Fiend Club, Hunting Humans, The Forbidden Zone, and Die Monster Die all exhibit Graves melodic and clean vocals. Other songs Scream and Saturday Night both sound like the dark & morbid lovechild of the Del-Vikings, Bobby Vinton and the Munsters. But don’t let these pleasant and sometimes poppy sounding vocals fool you, the Misfits are just as dark as ever. With lyrics like “I’ve come to kill you I will, I’m gonna eat you be still” (Scarecrow Man) and “If I cut off your arms and cut off you legs would you still love me anyway?” (Helena) firmly keep the horror in horror punk.
My favorite tracks off of this album are: Kong Unleashed, Forbidden Zone, Hunting Humans, Witch Hunt, Them, Scarecrow Man, Fiend Club, and Scream. Hopefully this album puts you right in the mood for the impending holiday of Halloween, I know it always does it for me. Play it during your Halloween party for added fun & atmosphere or just whenever you feel like harmonizing with songs about killing zombies, monsters from outer space, or a planet full of apes. Either way I’m sure you’ll enjoy it and have yourself a spooktacular time. Thanks for reading and I’m very excited to be back sharing souvenirs with all of you again, I’ll see all of you fellow fiends later.
Photo credit: https://fanart.tv/fanart/music/936addc3-91aa-49de-8ec0-0dc186de151f/albumcover/famous-monsters-4e5e62995ae18.jpg