90s score: 9/10
2020 score: 6/10
I’m gonna admit something embarrassing here: American Psycho was the first Misfits album I ever listened to. Sure, I had heard a handful of the classics beforehand, but when I bought this album at age 15, I really wasn’t aware of the history of the band, or the difference between the Danzig and Michale Graves eras. I listened to this album excessively, and I doubled-down on it after I was grounded for singing along to “Speak of the Devil.”
It was years later that I learned that Graves co-founded the oxymoronic Conservative Punk movement, lampooned in a bit on the Daily Show. Fast-forward to a few months ago, when Graves posted on Instagram in support of far-right group the Proud Boys, along with a photo of him flashing the white power “OK” symbol. It didn’t take much to convince me that Graves is a garbage human being. Now, I do know a few people who have met Graves the few times he came to Montreal, and they have assured me that he’s actually a decent person, though I doubt they talked politics around him. Armed with this knowledge, I thought I should revisit American Psycho to see if it’s actually as good as I once thought it was.
Right off the bat, you can tell Graves is objectively a better singer than Danzig. But then again, Graves is still imitating Danzig’s “spooky Elvis” vocal style, which is especially evident on “Day of the Dead.” Graves also copies Danzig’s excessive use of whoas, as heard in the chorus of the opener “American Psycho.” Danzig had shaped the band’s style, Graves just picked it up from there, but didn’t add anything new.
Politics never enter into the lyrical themes. The Misfits has always been a love letter to horror movies, and on this album, Graves references Day of the Dead, Poltergeist, This Island Earth, Mars Attacks, and Crimson Ghost—the film where the band’s logo comes from. However, there’s the bizarre reference to Jesus in the lyrics of “Resurrection:” “Talk about me / Laugh about me / Cry about me / Nail me to the cross / I’ll be a martyr for the hated / The weak, the ugly, the lost.” This seemed strange to me, even as a teenager, but when I found out Graves was a republican, it finally clicked.
Instrumentally, the band is on point. Brothers Jerry Only and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein solidify the metal-tinged sound into their four-chord punk format, and Dr. Chud is probably one of the better drummers the Misfits ever had.
When American Psycho was released, it had been more than a decade since the Misfits’ last release (I know Static Age was released in 1996, but those songs were recorded in 1978). After years of legal battles over who has ownership of the name, fans must have been excited to hear some new material. However, by this time, Danzig had released several albums under his solo act, and the music he was writing was a lot more exciting than the Misfits’ stagnant formula.
I do feel some nostalgia when I hear “Dig Up Her Bones,” but otherwise, listening to American Psycho leaves a bad taste in my mouth, knowing the person Graves has become. I never had any interest in listening to anything he did post-Misfits. Most people only see him live in the hopes he’ll do one or two Misfits covers. So even though Danzig is a weird pervert, a bad movie director, a pretentious asshole, and an all-around unaware goofball, given the choice, I would choose him—his era of the Misfits, plus all of his projects that followed— over Graves any day.
Written by Chris Aitkens
*Edited by Dominic Abate