Listening to the Misfits today on the way home from work, I came to a realization: on the surface, the Misfits aren't very good. Although I remember a time when virtually everyone I knew, punks, metalheads, skaters, thought the Misfits were brilliant. There is one notable exception, but his favorite band was Queensryche, so his opinion doesn't count for anything anyway. This is the same guy who used to make fun of the song titles on Metallica's Master of Puppets album. He never actually listened to the album.

As for the Misfits, they were extremely popular for an underground band in the 1980s. Their albums, along with Black Flag and a few select others, were in just about everyone's record collection and their singles, all with limited production runs, were very desired on the collectors' market and heavily bootlegged.

However, on first listen, a lot of people would say that the band isn't very good. Pretty much every one of their records is sloppy. The exception is the proto-thrash final LP, Earth A.D., which featured former Black Flag drummer Robo. Pretty much every one of their records has entirely too much reverb, making it sound as though recorded in a cave. Most of the records are mixed unusually for hardcore, with Glenn Danzig's vocals way out front and Jerry Only's bass right behind. On the earliest records, Only's bass is more 60's pop, but he became a quick study of Motorhead's Lemmy and it is his trademark punchy, distorted sound that is present on most of the Misfits subsequent recordings. Also, unusually for hardcore, Glenn Danzig was a huge fan of 50's singers Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley and the Misfits records featured this type of vocal style over loud guitars. There was also a touch of Jim Morrison in there, which eventually reared its ugly head in Danzig.

The lyrics were mostly inspired by old horror films or real-life events such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the death of Marilyn Monroe. This is quite different from other bands associated with the scene the Misfits came from, which was generally more concerned about the direction the country was headed under Reagan or how they were being treated by the police.

In the final analysis, it's this combination that really made the Misfits great. They certainly weren't the best musicians. Their records sounded weird. The singer sang like Roy Orbison. The lyrical themes were dark, but not topical. In short, they sounded like nothing else out there at the time and as such were embraced by a number of different scenes. They are most associated with the early 80's hardcore scene, but they had an obvious influence on late 80's thrash. Bands like AFI tread in the space the Misfits carved out, but there's still nothing that really sounds like they did. Even Jerry Only's "resurrected" Misfits don't sound the same; they're too well rehearsed, their records sound too contemporary. As for Glenn Danzig, he left that sound behind with Samhain, a more heavy metal influenced group that would eventually morph into Danzig.

NOTE: The final installment of Plitvička jezera will appear later in the week. Before then, I will be reviewing the Stereolab shows I caught over the weekend.