Graded on a Curve:
Danzig, Danzig

A very scary thing happened to Glenn Danzig on the corpse strewn road from cartoon horrorcore band the Misfits and his band Danzig’s eponymous 1988 debut–he began to sing. And over the years his vocals have metastasized into a full-blown croon; I present you, as Exhibit A, with this year’s Danzig Sings Elvis. Can Danzig Sings Sinatra be far behind?

The problem is, Danzig’s no crooner. He’s a cross between Jim Morrison (sans sex appeal), Billy Idol (sans both sex appeal and snarling lip), and a mating tree frog (sans both sex appeal and third eyelid). Although he may have the third eyelid–I’ve never summoned up the courage to check.

Fans (and they are legion) explain away the difference between Glenn’s vocals with the Misfits and those with Danzig by asserting (and not without merit) that the former was a hardcore band while the latter’s a metal one. With hardcore, an ability to sing can actually dash your career hopes; on the other hand, a metal vocalist who can’t sing risks ending up in a spandex bee suit in a Stryper cover band. Danzig managed, if barely, to make the transition, but still sounds like he’s in a competition with Henry Rollins to prove who’s got the most wooden delivery in rock.

But enough carping about Danzig’s voice–let us turn to his band’s music, which is hardly the stuff of genius. My pal Charlie King summed up Danzig by calling them “The world’s lowest hanging fruit,” and this, he was careful to add, “from a confirmed lover of all things Misfits.” Glenn Danzig’s songwriting is serviceable at best, the band’s execution suitably brutal but nothing to write your congresswoman about.

How best to say this? Listening to Danzig is like being whupped upside the head with dumb. But there’s something lovable about Danzig’s brand of dumb–they’re that big, blustering but essentially harmless kid who flunked 2nd grade, but who you hang out with anyway because he’ll do anything for a quarter.

Opening track “Twist of Cain” is a template for what’s in store. John Christ’s guitar sacks and pillages like a Hun while Danzig tells Bible stories. As for the church bell, do not ask for whom it tolls–it’s just there to add a dash of the funereal. On “Not of the World,” meanwhile, Danzig goes full tilt White Wedding and announces he’s the “dawn on your bloody beach,” like the invasion of Gallipoli maybe, or the battle of Omaha Beach in pancake makeup.

By the band’s own admission the lumbering “She Rides” is a sex song, but who in god’s name would fuck to it? “Sin runs down her back,” according to Glenn, so why doesn’t she take a bath already? I like the slow grind a whole lot–it’s no more original than the line “She’s sex in a cool black dress,” but I’ll take death in a cool black dress over a devil in a blue one every time.

Danzig shifts from Morrison to Idol so fast he strips the gears on “Soul on Fire”; the guitar riff on “Am I Demon” has both Jimmy Page’s and Tony Iommi’s thumb prints all over it, which means they were both playing it at the same time! On “Possession” the music’s all twisted up and upside down like Linda Blair spidering down the stairs in The Exorcist; Danzig announces he wants to crawl into you brain, which I guess makes him an earwig!

Danzig swipes “The Hunter” from the great Albert King (doesn’t so much as give him credit on the liner notes), but it’s Albert who gets the last laugh–Glenn is possibly the worst blues singer of all time. (Tom Yorke could cut him, and Björk could give him a run for the money.) Glenn opens the Zeppesque “Evil Thing” by whispering the words “I see the white tissue” or some such, and once again sings out of the Lizard King’s piehole. If Jimbo were smart he’d climb out of the grave and throw Glenn in it (he wouldn’t mind, he loves a good grave).

People consider “Mother” the LP’s big enchilada, although it didn’t hit big until five years later–like the Velvet Underground, guess it was ahead of its time (sure). Glenn warns the mothers of the world to not let their children hear his words, but it’s highly doubtful they’ll get the chance seeing as how hardly any of ‘em own the lyric sheet. He also offers the fathers of the world a guided tour of Hell, and he’s not even charging admission!

On Danzig everybody’s favorite roid abuser digs through the secondhand bins for castoff vocals, which is fine by many–Danzig remains Glenn’s biggest seller, and plenty of music critics have kissed its unholy ass over the years.

But I’m on to Glenn Danzig. A long, long time ago on a planet far, far away a Washington Post music reviewer laid waste to the band I was with, and while I didn’t mind him sticking it to my band mates, I was crushed when he labeled me “a professional lead singer.” I correctly interpreted this as a grave insult, seeing as how that “professional,” as he damn well knew, excluded personality, originality, and the ability to bend a note in an interesting way. He might as well have come right out and said I had all the charm of a professional golfer.

And while I would never compare myself to Glenn Danzig–I am but a flake of dandruff on his receding hairline, and besides he’d probably beat me to death with a steroidal pinky finger–he’s a professional golfer too. I see him every year at the U.S. Open, riding in a little cart.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
C+

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