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.