1997: The Misfits - Static Age

Like many of their punk-rock peers, The Misfits' popularity has grown exponentially since their humble beginnings in Lodi, New Jersey, a satellite to the blossoming punk scene in New York. Unlike many of their peers -- The Ramones, Black Flag, The Damned, just to name a few -- there has been little critical reassessment of their career over the past three decades. Even devotees of ’70s punk tend to regard the band as a bit of a guilty pleasure, which is unfortunate; The Misfits' early output holds up much better than most of their contemporaries -- and yes, that's including The Ramones, Black Flag, and The Damned.

Static Age is a peculiar document, the debut album that never was. Recorded in 1978 on 30 hours of donated time from Mercury Records (Both the Misfits and Mercury were using the name “Blank Records” to publish music; Mercury traded them a recording session for the exclusive rights), the session was meant to yield the band's first full-length. When Mercury passed on its option to release it, The 'Fits decided to split the tracks up among the Bullet, Horror Business, and Beware EPs. Even so, a good chunk of music would not see the light of day until 1986, with the posthumous release of the basement tape-quality Legacy of Brutality. It was another 10 years before Static Age was released in its entirety, this time as part of the band's boxed set. Then, as a huge “fuck you” to anyone who bought the set, Caroline released the album as a stand-alone disc one year later, remastered with bonus tracks.

So that's the history. How's the album? Well, for a collection of songs that was never intended to be released as a cohesive whole, it hangs together incredibly well. The collection, curiously enough, starts off on its weakest footing, opening with the title track and chasing it down with “T.V. Casualty,” two takes on what is essentially the same song (look up the guitar tabs; they're practically identical). Things really start getting interesting with “Some Kinda Hate.” It's the kind of song The Misfits became famous for: ’50s Buddy Holly-style rock 'n' roll as seen through a sleezy ’70s punk lens, a chorus of “whoa-oh-ohs,” and Glenn Danzig crooning about tortured babies and copulating maggots like Roy Orbison possessed by the ghost of Ed Gein. It is followed immediately by “Last Caress,” perhaps the band's most recognizable track. It's also the song that owes the most to The Ramones (listen closely and you'll hear the same chord progression as "Blitzkrieg Bop”). Nonetheless, the song takes on an energy all its own, faltering to a standstill at 1:23, just long enough for Danzig to wail, “Oh sweet death, one last caress.” At that moment, you buy into it. Never mind that only a minute earlier he was boasting about raping your mom or killing your baby, you are completely and unironically on-board with whatever this guy has to say.

Static Age is clearly a product of a certain place and time, but its tracks carry a surprising range of diversity. “Bullet” looks forward to the kind of blazing hardcore The Misfits would embrace on the Earth A.D./Wolfsblood LP, while “Hollywood Babylon” and “Teenagers from Mars” revel in the kind of surf-rock guitar The Dead Kennedys would make their signature. “Come Back” and “Theme for a Jackal” are proto-goth masterpieces. Guitarist Franche Coma, drummer Mr. Jim, and bassist Jerry Only might have been interchangeable (Coma and Mr. Jim would both be gone by 1979), but every riff and fill they play is brimming with piss-ant attitude.

The sound quality of Static Age's ’97 remaster is significantly improved over the boxed set version and light-years beyond the four-track-in-a-cavern sound of Legacy of Brutality. Of the bonus tracks, “In the Doorway” -- a Doors-like ballad exclusive to this release -- is a real gem. Plus, as an added bonus, there are nearly nine minutes of studio outtakes. Revel as Danzig chides Jerry Only for breaking a string! Marvel as Franche Coma complains he needs to sit down! Overall, it's an attractive package that more than holds up as one of the best punk records that almost never came out of the ’70s.

1. Static Age
2. TV Casualty
3. Some Kinda Hate
4. Last Caress
5. Return of the Fly
6. Hybrid Moments
7. We Are 138
8. Teenagers from Mars
9. Come Back
10. Angelfuck
11. Hollywood Babylon
12. Attitude
13. Bullet
14. Theme for a Jackal
15. She
16. Spinal Remains
17. In the Doorway
18. Outtakes 1
19. Hidden 2

DeLorean

There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

Most Read