Imprint: New Revolutions June 28, 1996 ---------------------------------------- THE MISFITS Box Set (Caroline) Reviewed by Sandy Atwal Taking their sound from the Ramones, their vocals from the Damned, and their subject matter from B monster movies, New Jersey's Misfits were certainly one of punk's most theatrical bands. Although their cult following is huge, they never really recieved the attention they deserved when they were releasing material; which is a shame because the same sense or irony, anger and energy found in the Pistols or the Ramones is equally prominent in the Misfits' albums. Unfortunately, their confusing (and largely unavailable) back catalogue has presented a serious impediment to potential fans. Caroline has wisely rectified that problem with the release of a box set consisting of basically everything the Misfits ever recorded. The box itself is probably the most beautifully designed compilation I've ever seen. A coffin-shaped box (lined with red velour, no less) and four uniquely designed jewel cases contain six albums along with several EPs and singles. The requisite booklet contains extensive liner notes by one-time 'Fits drummer Eerie Von, lyrics, a discography and lots of colour photos. The package is perhaps a little too complete. At least ten songs are represented in two different versions, and there three versions of some songs, including "20 Eyes" and "Teenagers from Mars," while "Night of the Living Dead" is repeated no less than four times. While these inclusions are great for hardcore fans, the differences between most of these versions are limited, making the repitition unwarranted. But this is a minor complaint; too much of a good thing never hurt anyone. Lead singer Glenn Danzig's post-Misfits metal material comes off as pretentious doom and gloom stud posing because it lacks any sense of humour. With the Misfits, however, Danzig could indulge his fascination with all things horror-related and make it work. Titles such as "Devilock," "Wolfsblood," "Demonomania," "Hate Breeders" and "Hellhound" simply refuse to be taken seriously. Songs such as "Return of the Fly" applied the same sense of silliness to the bands lyrics. As Danzig sings in the aforementioned song "Return of the Fly/Return of the Fly/With Vincent Price/Yeah, Return of the Fly." Fast, fun and short -- just what punk should be. That being said, part of the Misfits' appeal is their ability to meld the campy/Hollywood side of horror while at the same time writing some truly disturbing lyrics. Danzig manages to attract the listener in with his powerful voice and the band's punchy hooks, but listen a little closer (or read the lyrics in the booklet) and you'll see that rape and torture aren't uncommon lyrical topics. The band's fascination with the macabre is helped out immensely by Danzig's voice. Danzig is the exception to the general rule that lead singers of punk bands just can't sing. On songs such as "Last Caress" and Attitude" Danzig comes across as nothing less than a cross between Joey Ramone and (dare I say it?) Elvis Presley. It's impossible to deny the Ramones' influence on early Misfits recordings. "Teenagers From Mars" is a classic tune built squarely on the foundation of the Ramones' school of short, simple, straight rock tunes. That's certainly not to say that the 'Fits sound didn't change. By the time of their third and final album Earth A.D. they had turned strictly hardcore. Although this can be seen as demonstrating some versatility, Earth A.D. suffers from some shoddy production and a muddier sound than their earlier material. As many hardcore albums are wont to do, the album also has a tendency to run itself, with little difference discernable between some tracks. (It should be noted that the exceptions, such as the title tracks, are still excellent.) Running through nine tracks in just under fifteen minutes (!) the band's final album failed simply because it downplayed both Danzig's voice and the band's ability to write good pop songs. Few box sets manage to be as comprehensive as they pretend to be. However, Caroline has managed to do a near-flawless job of detailing a band that made no small contribution to the American punk scene.