Misfits – Vampire Girl/Zombie Girl (2015)
Label: Misfits Records
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. It’s not a secret that, in the past decade, the Misfits, the seminal horror punk band from Lodi, New Jersey (once fronted by Glenn Danzig) have gone from “seminal punk band” to “decent not-as-great-as-they-once-were-but-still-underrated horror metal band” to “gee whiz, Jerry Only sure is trying.” Indeed, as the band was handed down from the controlling Danzig to the commercialism-is-king Only, the band went from edgy, in your face horror punk to a more family-friendly, gotta-make-that-buck punk-infused metal. In tandem with that, the vocals were passed from Devil-crooner Danzig to the wildly underrated vocals of Michale Graves (who pushed them closer, vocally, to the 50’s and 60’s influences seen in The Misfits’ contemporaries, The Ramones), and finally settled on Jerry Only – the only remaining original Misfit – whose vocals have honestly failed to make much of an impression, ranging from “weak” to “serviceable.”
The latter-day Misfits (emerging now as the Jerry Only Family Band, as he as placed his son, Jerry Caiafa II, on guitars, following the exit of ex-Black Flag guitarist Dez Cadena) haven’t fared too well with their releases. The Devil’s Rain, the Misfits’ first proper LP after the departure of Graves on vocals, was more of a disappointment than a triumphant return, featuring a few decent songs and a handful of more forgettable ones. This was followed by a live LP, DE.A.D. ALIVE!, which captured the Misfits’ breakneck energy more than the studio LP that came before it, as well as a handful of single releases and a Christmas EP. These last two efforts have set the new Misfits standard, balancing their old gallows humor with Only’s much-improved vocals.
This brings us to the latest release from The Misfits (or, rather, releases, as the newest offering from punk’s original ghoul rockers is actually two singles, Vampire Girl and Zombie Girl, both packaged as single releases, with one song serving as the other’s B-side, and vice versa – more on that later). The Misfits have packaged their new singles as dual 12-inch vinyls, a compact disc, and, of course, digital downloads.
Vampire Girl is the more melodic of the two singles, taking a cue from later-era Misfits songs like “Saturday Night” and “Dark Shadows,” juxtaposing dark subject matter with 50’s/60’s chord progressions and an out-of-left-field guitar solo that works a lot better than it should. The prospect of a Misfits love song that doesn’t end up with one of the two lovers 6-feet-under might sound bogus to some, but, honestly, Vampire Girl is one of the better songs out of this incarnation of the Misfits, if not THE best. Only’s vocals are very much improved, and while not as striking as Danzig’s or as dynamic as Graves’, they get the job done and the sell the song. Think of it this way: if Danzig is Evil Elvis, then Jerry Only is a Baneful Big Bopper.
While Vampire Girl represents what cynics may refer to as “the softer side of the Misfits,” Zombie Girl recalls the pure, adrenaline-filled, 90’s-era Misfits. After a spoken word intro, Zombie Girl blasts off into aggressive percussion, screaming guitar, and those “Whoa-oh-ohs” that are nearly synonymous with the Misfits. Whatever nuances Only’s vocals displayed on Vampire Girl give way to a more serviceable bark/shout, and the whole track rockets forward at a breakneck pace; this is to say, Zombie Girl is a very welcome addition to the musical catalog of the Only-fronted Misfits.
As I mentioned above, Vampire Girl and Zombie Girl were released digitally, on compact disc, and on vinyl… and it’s in this latter format where the Only Cash Machine is firing on all cylinders. Misfits Records released two colored-vinyl options: a “Vampire Girl” blue-blended vinyl with blood red streaks, and a “Zombie Girl” green-blended vinyl with purple streaks. Be warned: both releases are exactly the same in all other departments: Vampire Girl is the A side on both releases, Zombie Girl is the B side of both releases, so, basically, if you’re a collector, and you buy both releases, the content AND the cover are exactly the same. Since the release in mid-December, the Misfits have actually added a third, limited, blood orange vinyl. That’s three vinyl releases, all of them “limited” of the same two songs… and the third pressing went into print before the other two have sold out – less than six months after the original release(s) were available to the public.
Look, people can say “a fool and his money” a thousand times over, but, even I, among the most ardent of Misfits-apologists, find this to be on the level of KISS™. I understand that the Misfits don’t have the same kind of profile or status that they once had, and I’d agree that they deserve much more attention and kudos (for the original line-up) than they ever received, but when you’re trying to make up for lost profits on the backs of your fans, some people may have a cynical take on the matter. Which is it, Jerry? Band or brand?
Ok. End rant. Despite my feelings on methodology of release, Vampire Girl and Zombie Girl both stand as legitimate, and, dare I say, enjoyable, releases from the Misfits, and, if they are to continue (especially if they’re to continue sans Danzig, which is most likely the case), then here’s hoping that the future releases encapsulate the feeling of these two – mostly aggressive, horror-soaked fun.
Nathan Erdel is a screenwriter. He wrote Headless and some other stuff. He likes beer, metal, pizza, and horror. He has three cats and one wife.