If late ’70s and early ’80s horror punk was a high school, and The Misfits were the angry goth kids, then The Undead would be the beer-swilling, joker-stoners of said institution. Their frolic through the seedy underbelly of horror punk is collected on First, Worst and Cursed. While other punks may have been bigger (and maybe better), no one beats The Undead’s uncanny ability to make disjointed rock songs with an edge so sharp you’d cut yourself.
The great thing about The Undead and this collection of songs is how insanely quick they jump from genre to genre. Whether it’s the surfer rock of “Breakfast Cereal Deviant” to the vague rockabilly of “Hell On Wheels”, the band never seems to know what kind of punks to be. Fear not, though, as the band is always loud and always willing to be as dirty and unkempt as can be. Rhythmic drums and stylized guitar are just as important as random instrumental squeaks and meltdowns. That inability to stick to anything also creeps its way into the band’s lyrical choices. No other band could pull off songs like the pro-euthanasia, Oy-tastic “Kill Me Please” and the condemnation of ’80s popular culture in “The Pepsi Generation” and then go on to “More Beer” (which features the line “beer doesn’t make you smart, but it sure does make Budweiser”). And while the prepubescent visceral style of Sid Terror gives each track a shine like the moonlight off a gutter, he excels in tracks like “Earth Dies Screaming”, where his voice is especially haggard and paranoid, and in “Fido”, which sees Terror croon, sounding like a lounge singer’s death rattle.
Of course, the draw of the band has to be their work with all things horror. Their particular brand isn’t like Vincent Price movies; it’s a six pack of Schlitz and Elvira all-nighter. While The Misfits were talking about rape and decapitation, The Undead had songs like “I Was A Teenage Vampire”, which is Halloween the way a bunch of paint-huffing teens experience it. But then a song like “Full Moon” is dark and edgy and has cheating girlfriends and knife fights. Of course, the pieces de resistance in their punk haunting are “Mad Jack” and “The Undead Anthem”, which would have been right at home on the Return Of The Living Dead soundtrack. And if zombies and egging people aren’t your cup of tea, the band also makes the mundane too mortifying to handle. “Supermarket Music” is like ’50s Doo Wop and is as scary as that sounds. And just to show they’re not complete fright-nerds, “Cyborg 17” and “Metro Cop” are brutal attacks of satire against police agencies everywhere in the least preachy way possible (because you still can’t take them too seriously after “More Beer”). These songs are the severed middle finger to the establishment.
Be weary of the sugar rush, children; this stuff can get annoying real quick. This isn’t the Ramones or The Clash or even the Sex Pistols; this is quicker and angstier and dirty and sarcastic and bad Halloween movie-core. It’s going to take a special kind of punk to handle this. The entire album is in your face and awkward and there’s no big moments and it just chugs along with each song attempting to stab you in the throat. This album is built for the kind of slacker punk who think The Damned take things too seriously. If you can handle that, you’ve got your All Hallows’ Eve mix for burning down the world.