Agony Shorthand

Friday, April 02, 2004

When I dreamt up my Ultimate Post-Punk C-78 master list a while back, I flat-out forgot a perfect inclusion for the thing: the throbbing (and criminally underrated) 1977 debut 45 from THE MISFITS, “Cough/Cool”. I could never understand what naysayers of this record were smoking. Aww, I’ll own up to not digging it much the first time I heard it either, but that was after being bludgeoned with their razor-sharp punk rock pantheon-defining 1978-79 follow-up singles (“Bullet”, “Horror Business”, “3 Hits From Hell” etc.) and then working backwards. You trek back to their debut, and on first listen it sort of sounds like a wet noodle in comparison. But it’s really almost a different band, and certainly an entirely different vibe being presented. Both “Cough/Cool” and the flip “She” have an eerily distant, disconnected sound – almost tentative and even unsure, which stands in stark contrast to the posturing bombast of the next couple of Misfits singles. Yet there’s such a calculated building and tension release to “Cough/Cool” that the clouds clear after a couple listens and the verdict’s just as plain as day: this is a fucking great song, and one completely devoid of guitars. I love the junior high shop class electric piano and organ, which sound slightly out of tune and homemade, and the “news flash” beep-beep-beep-beep intro is like a low rent cousin to the first few seconds of PERE UBU’s “Non-Alignment Pact”.

Glen Danzig also slurs his initial vocals like a shushed-up schoolchild before launching into his Enrico Caruso imitation we know and love. I mean, I’ll defend Danzig as a first-rate songwriter up to and possibly including “Walk Among Us” (note: this most definitely does not include lyrics), and I think this is one of his finest. This is the sound of bedroom America getting off its collective ass and inventing a whole new subgenre of rock music. It’s exciting to listen to even today. I’m kicking someone off my previous “C-78” and throwing "Cough/Cool” on. Now mine really kicks Jon Savages’ ass!