Feb 21, 2008

There was a golden time back in the late ‘90s when I thought Electric Frankenstein was King Shit. I really believed that their music could kill hippies. I thought they were the new Dead Boys, only heavier and with a few more chins – not just sonically speaking, but heavier in the physical sense as well (as anyone can plainly see that it would take about 3.5 Stiv Bators to make one Steve Miller.) And while Steve Miller’s no Gap underpants model, he’s a got a great punk rock voice – greasy and gritty and slimey like a wet paper bag full of rancid dog food and worms. Back then I was listening to their live discs, How I Rose From the Dead, I Was a Teenage Shutdown and Me No Like You constantly. And when I did an interview with the Hookers and they slagged on E.F. for being old and fat and having too many chins, I liked E.F. even better. What could be more truly cool than being the farthest thing from MTV pretty people? And their old choppers weren’t exactly floating in a glass of water next to their bed; E.F. had a sound that spit in your eye right before it tore your adam’s apple out with its teeth. Or at least the live recordings did. I soon found out that the studio offerings didn’t quite have that same bite. And right about the time I made that discovery, they started squirting records out like bunny turds; these boys definitely don’t suffer from Axl Rose Reluctancy Syndrome when it comes to cranking new stuff out. Soon, for me, a new E.F. release became nothing to get excited about. They seemed hell bent to show everyone and Axl Rose that it really is quantity over quality. On top of that, they further bogged down their fans – or me at least – with their preachy “Fight the Anti-Rock Conspiracy” twaddle. I generally don’t get an itchy reaction to “preaching to the choir” type stuff, but this particular campaign seemed as ponderous as their recorded output was prolific. So it was with some trepidation that I approached reviewing this new double E.F. CD of nothing but cover tunes. To their credit, they are all over the map here. They go from covers of the Circle Jerks to AC/DC to the Supersuckers to Crime, the Dead Kennedys, Blue Oyster Cult, the Misfits, F-Word, Fleetwood Mac, Johnny Cash and Pink Floyd. All in all, very admirable attempts. But when you get to the stuff you’d like to re-listen to – not as interesting. What it comes down to for me, is that the covers of “arena rock” tunes tend to show that slower, softish mid-tempo side of E.F. that seems to have been more and more prevalent on their more recent releases – while the more “punk” covers have more snot and teeth and bile. Which I like. Sorry, I’m biased. “Ace’s High” by Iron Maiden is a cool/cheesy tune, but E.F.’s relaxed remake makes the original sound more “punk” than the E.F. version. And personally, for me, if you’re going around with a comic book-inspired band logo that says “Electric Frankenstein – Punk Rock” and you’re showing up on the monitor as “less punk” than a fencing doofus like Bruce Dickenson, you better take a step back and rethink things. Like most recent E.F. releases, I find this one to be a mixed bag of really good and really uninteresting. The good stuff is good, though. As usual, I wish I could have gone into the studio and trimmed the fat for them, using my razor sharp music critic scalpels. Because this is, perhaps, the most “Frankenstein-ish” of all their releases and, while it doesn’t come anywhere near to totally sucking, it doesn’t have the over-all power and ignorance to drown sweet little innocent girls in sun dresses either. A lurching hit-and-miss patchwork of random parts sewn together with cheap yarn. Your call.

 –aphid (TKO)

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