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Saturday, August 30, 2008

CD Review: Plan 9 - Manmade Monster

Plan 9 - Manmade Monster
2008 Nickel and Dime Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

I've always said Elvis Presley and the Misfits are the most covered and imitated musicians in rock history, the Pink Floyd, Kiss and Led Zep tribute legions notwithstanding. Ever since Metallica amped up "Last Caress" and "Green Hell" on The $5.98 EP in the late eighties, one might consider the redux gesture an official comeuppance of the Misfits from could've-been-obscure ghoul punk act to seminal underground legends. While Glenn Danzig to this day has little to say about the distortion-crazed horror rock he had a firm hand in establishing (minus a handful of Misfits reunion gigs of late), the popularity of the Misfits today far supersedes their gutter appeal in the eighties.

Everything from lounge renditions of "I Walked With a Martian" to a score of drape-faced revisionists (Japan's Balzac being one of the absolute best of the lot) has kept the Misfits' legacy of brutality in full swing. It isn't enough that the Crimson Ghost (originally a skull-masked avenger in a classic serial film of the same name) has jumped from the chests of Generation X to today's kids, kids from all walks of musical life be they metal, punk, horror rock, Goth or psychobilly. No, the upswing of the Misfits' resounding return (held onto with sweaty mits by survivors Jerry Only and Doyle) is felt by young 'uns today who scream "Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?" with a full set of lungs, just as much as their elders (some who are their real mommies and daddies) did long before them. If there's any problem with this, it's the identity possession factor in which some of the younger crowd forget who built the fan base to begin with, expressing their misguided disapproval with sneers upon a graying and receding Gen X that wears their old, faded Pushead-drawn Misfits shirts in unyielding devotion.

What that leads us to is Oakland's Plan 9, formerly a straight-up Misfits tribute band that has written their own set of whoa-ohhhh-brewed tunes (with Jerry Only extending camaraderie by appearing on their previous 8 Hits From Hell disc) and the comforting thing about these guys is that they have enough rock smarts to make a solid batch of originals and a small handful of covers for their full-length debut Manmade Monster.

Referring in name obviously to the Misfits' old label as well as the turkey cult horror film Plan 9 From Outer Space (from which the alma maters were conceived, along with other fifties, sixties and seventies witching hour flicks), Plan 9 wisely avoids the squelch and squeals of Earth A.D., which most bands do likewise (although Plan 9's "Day of the Dead" retains the thrash-happy spirit of Earth A.D. with an underlying mod keyboard compensating wonderfully for the Misfits' hollow static), and instead turns to Walk Among Us and Legacy of Brutality for inspiration along with scat cat psychobilly--minus the latter's rhythmic slap bass, of course.

That doesn't mean Plan 9 are slouches within their rhythm section. Going by the cheeseball names Scary Only (bass) and Dr. Von Wolfenstein (guitar), these guys along with drummer Mad Mike are pick-up punk artists with a firm grasp of their instruments, even fusing some metal riffs now and then ("Revenant's Rise," "She Never Sleeps" and their cover of "Samhain," for example). Vocalist Aaron Fuller pulls just enough of a drawling Danzig facsimile to drive home Plan 9's point, which isn't much of one save to say they're addicted to the Misfits and psychobilly (as one begot the other with the help of Reverend Horton Heat and The Stray Cats) and that Fuller's gang have more to offer than just borrowing the looks and (already borrowed) mascot of their heroes.

"Archangel" tunefully revisits the Legacy of Brutality era Misfits and Plan 9 coughs up a bouncing and stout cover in turn, while "13 Shades of Black" whips up a dust cloud with more allegiance to Koffin Kats and Demented Are Go than the Misfits, even with Fuller's Danzig twanging. "Blood" could've been hijacked from a handful of Misfits cuts, but Plan 9 riffs away to their own delight while wailing almost casually about a hungry sycophant. You can't say these dudes don't have their hearts in the right place.

While Plan 9 respectfully goes through the numbers on their cover of "Teenagers From Mars/We Bite," the majority of their own material features plenty of pep and fang to make Manmade Monster a modern day happy pill bred from a much beloved punk group and the drive-in mania which originally spawned them.

Rating: ****


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