Friday, April 3, 2009

"Misfits Fan"

Although everyone knows that the Misfits are "officially" my favorite band, when others are pondering my existence, they don't stop and ask what this means. Because, if initially the Misfits were only catchy, spooky, and had a cool image, in the years of shaping my taste and having my interests find over and over again the greatness of the music, they have come to embody several important principals of my aesthetics. I don't have time right now to go into all of this, but one principal will suffice.

The Misfits are masters of pastiche.

That this is most evidently borrowed from The Ramones, and secondarily from the MC5 and the New York Dolls, only shows what a crucial part of early punk pastiche was. The second New York Dolls album is my favorite of the two, because of its extreme use of pastiche in nearly every track; ditto for the second MC5 record. With the Ramones, one often feels that the previous twenty years of pop music have been thrown in a blender or a Ramones-o-matic and have been spit out as 3-chord punk, but bearing the trace of their origin. To call the Ramones "essentially a pop band" or to overstate the Phil Spector quality of their music, however, is to 1) brutally misunderstand the group, and 2) miss out on the element of *pastiche*.

The greatest rock pastiche is still The Who's "A Quick One While He's Away," immortalized on the Rushmore soundtrack. What style is not given the briefest possible coverage over this 9 minute track? And, album-wise, this is the great accomplishment of the Beatles White Album, the b-side of Abbey Road, and Let it Be. A mention should also be made of the Rolling Stones' Between the Buttons and the Kinks, especially on their greatest albums, "Face to Face," Something Else," "Arthur," and "Village Green Preservation Society."

This is the heritage which the Misfits take up, which sadly has *not* been taken up by many subsequent punk bands. I am thinking especially of songs like "Teenagers from Mars," "In the Doorway," "Theme for a Jackal," "Braineaters," "London Dungeon," "Rat Fink," and so forth.

I have always been against reducing the Misfits to "the spooky Ramones," and for this I point the listener to songs which are more-than-obviously playing with the Ramones formula: "Angelfuck," "Attitude," and "She."

In any case, this is to suggest another Adventure in Listening; compare the Misfits with the Who, Monty Python, and the Simpsons, and I believe they will stand out even more from their contemporaries, and from the humorless and redundant music of today.

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