15/03/2011

Listen Cloze, Now: "Teenagers From Mars" by the Misfits



"We learn to curb our will and keep our overt actions within the bounds of humanity, long before we can subdue our sentiments and imaginations to the same mild tone." - Hazlitt
"We need no introduction,
No visas or carte blanche,
Inhuman reproduction -
We're here for what we want."

jes some bad ol boys from space runnin round raisin hell.

How does a Jersey boy get himself such an Evil Elvis drawl-holler? (It must be that Southernness in rocknroll is an attitude for anyone with darkness enough about them.)


The Misfits are best seen as an extension of rockabilly, tacking on the head-down-straight-line drive of the Damned (the Damned themselves just the gothic Ramones - the Ramones themselves just the nerdy New York Dolls), and schlocky refrains - "space murder!"; "blowjobs!"; "little girls!". (So they derive misogyny from both B-movies & Jeery Lee Lewis.)

So: upbeat atrocity! They keep RnB's jaunty energy, but move the lyrics from rogueish dancing and lively wine to alien assassination and paedophilia. The dissonance of this swop is far greater than the one they put on with their amps. Danceable and extreme = success.

Just as B-movies peddle a camp kind of terror, so too the Misfits are Rocky Horror Punk. Actual horror music is made by people who are themselves afraid, and the Misfits are far too macho to be scared. Jerry Only is more of a failed wrestler than a bassist, and Danzig has always obviously wanted to be the dark.


Is it worth listening harder, in such an unsubtle oeuvre? Let's say yes:

Because "Teenagers from Mars", blatantly a 2D B-movie swing-tune, is also about the inside of boys' heads. A romp through the incessant-indiscriminate sexuality and coruscating-contrary violence that forms the inner life of hormonal young men. What stops the teenage world from being even more of a ridiculous macho crapshoot than it is already is our shame, incompetence, lankiness, cowardice, and the ready availability of symbolic outlets (as well as, I like to think, a dim, tentative intimation of the feelings of others).

We all think immoral things, and I think few control their imaginations much at all: this song is a fantasised trek by young Danzig, young you, young me; tasteless, amoral and gender-crazed. We could wring our hands about the nastiness the mind kicks up like dust, but I'll not; the shrugging, slinking bassline in this points out that imagination is very distinct from motivation; and that to fantasise is in fact not to want.


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tbh, "Horror punk" doesn't warrant its own genre, since it consists in a community of Misfits tribute bands (e.g. The Undead, Balzac, Graves, Crimson Ghosts, Wednesday 13, The Other, Von Frankensteins, the Misfits themselves) and little else. It becomes metal when you get slightly slower, slightly faster or more histrionic, anyway.


COVERS

- A band called Teenagers from Mars playing "Die, Die My Darling". A band called Children in Heat playing "Teenagers from Mars". A band called The Hate Breeders playing "Where Eagles Dare". A band called Where Eagles Dare playing their own stuff(...)

- A comic.

- The Network (Green Day): Massively maligned, o course - heretics usually have their own dumb articles of faith - but the slowing and smoothening isn't especially offensive. The drum machine works fine.

- Buck-O-Nine: If they were any bigger, this would probably get much the same treatment; it's a goofy compression, a ska subversion in line with the original's camp.

- The Backyard Babies one is absurdly identical. (see also "Spingnota")

- Say Anything

- Black Velvet Elvis could have been great - primitive redo with a female singer! - but misses the chance to reclaim and redirect the song's specifically macho shit. (see also the Bitchfits, who, in devoting their careers to covers of very macho music, may have missed the above ideology...)

- The Von Frankensteins strip out everything that was energetic and convincing about the original, leaving the track in drudging metal. Funny how machismo works,

- A man, David Pajo does lofi and slightly aimless acoustic covers of lots of horror...

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