The Misfits' American Psycho (1997)

This Danzig-less "reunion" album from the most recognized brand in horror rock isn't nearly as bad as you'd expect.


American Psycho

Label: Fontana Geffen
US Release Date: 1997-05-13

American Psycho, the 1997 Misfits “reunion” album, is kind of like Halloween 3: Season of the Witch: It doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the original, but it’s pretty entertaining in its own right. Sure, we all miss the throaty, werewolf-like presence of Glenn Danzig, and it’s kind of sad that the American legal system allows there to be Misfits-branded product in which the group’s founder and most talented member played no part.

However, this record does serve up a rather satisfying fusion of zippy pop punk and chunky metal riffing, and had the Caiafa brothers not been bold enough to sue Glenn for the rights to the Misfits, there’s a good chance American Psycho would have been completely lost in the late-'90s avalanche of cartoony horror-rock releases. (No way would anyone have paid any attention to the record had they stuck with the original name of Kryst the Conqueror.)

The first thing the astute listener will notice on American Psycho is the vast improvement in Paul Caiafa’s guitar playing. (Paul, of course, prefers to go by the name Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein.) When he first started in the Misfits, back in 1980, Mr. Von Frankenstein could barely master the tricky two-note solo in “We Are 138”. Here, Doyle has graduated to full-on rock bombast, slamming out muted power chords and pinched harmonics with reckless abandon. This, along with his maintenance of that Ivan Drago physique, must be applauded. That he manages to play the guitar without inadvertently destroying it proves his inherent, undeniable talent.

Respect also must be given to rookie singer Michale Graves, who strode confidently into an unenviable position. Not even Dave Vanian was up for the challenge of filling Glenn Danzig’s pointy buckled shoes -- the Damned crooner reportedly turned down several offers to join this particular incarnation of the Misfits. Graves lends an evil boyish charm to the proceedings, bragging in a devilish sneer about drinking water from wolves’ footprints and offering solemn warnings of the zombie army. He’s like a demonic Burt Ward; his voice is loaded with enough ghoulish pep to kick-start even the corniest of cornball anthems on American Psycho. (I’m looking directly at you, “Don’t Open ‘Til Doomsday”.)

It should also be noted that not only did Michale write “Dig Up Her Bones” and “The Haunting”, American Psycho tracks that even the most hardcore Danzig worshippers will admit kick ass, he wrote the former when he was merely 16. And many bands would have killed for the solid drumming foundation of Dr. Chud, who purées all Misfits skin-beaters that came before him with the exceptions of Robo and maybe Mr. Jim. (I’ll admit, when it comes to Misfits drummers, it’s kind of an apples-oranges thing -- from a style standpoint, they’re all so different, it’s tough to compare them.)

The brevity of American Psycho’s material helps move things along quickly and steadily, but the album is not without major blunders. One wonders how much industrial-strength solvent the Misfits were huffing when they titled the album’s penultimate song “The Shining” when the lyrics are clearly based on the events of Poltergeist. I’ll accept the possibility that Tobe Hooper or Steven Spielberg may have sought legal injunction against any punk band that attempted to appropriate the title of their 1982 spookfest, but I’m more inclined to believe Jerry Only just got really high one day and accidentally mixed up the names of the two films. This coming from New Jersey’s number-one purveyors of skull rock is completely inexcusable.

Also, instead of a full 18 tracks, American Psycho offers 17 plus a “hidden” track that starts three minutes after the album ends. Pardon me, but that’s just asinine and completely annoying. When I listen to the Misfits (or anything, for that matter), I don’t want to hear 17 songs, three minutes of silence, and one more song. I want to hear 18 in a row. This expired digital novelty will not be missed when CDs are dead and gone.

Nothing is perfect, and we have to take this charging slab of melodic doom punk with all its flaws (including that giant one at the top that starts with an “M” and ends with an “isfits”). While this Danzig-free lineup may not have been as "hardcore" or "evil" or possessed as much “street cred” as the original devilocked grouping, their songs are just as catchy and fun as any bloody alien invasion Glenn ever shouted about over tuneless, barely-in-time racket. I dare say American Psycho packs more punch than anything in the Danzig catalog post-1994 (save that hilarious internet video in which Glenn gets punched).

It’s a shame American Psycho has been maligned by purists unwilling to look past the stupidity of the name or the fact this was probably just a desperate grab for cash in the wake of Green Day. Even factoring that in, it’s damn good goofy fright rock. The follow up, 1999’s Famous Monsters, may be even better. One day, these records will get the same begrudging respect bestowed upon Tommy Lee Wallace’s 1982 Halloween sequel, which mocks vapid consumerism, boasts the brutal decapitation of Stacey Nelkin, and is 100 percent Michael Myers-free. Until then, I’ll keep trying my hardest to convince those clowns in the Danzig chat rooms that Glenn would have made a horrible Wolverine in the X-Men movies.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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