THE MUFFS
LIVE:

By Blair Buscareno
(From Teen Scene #53, Summer, '95)

I'm not sure when they landed on Eastern Shores this time around. Mainly 'cuz I wasn't on them at the time, myself. I was out at GarageShock when they played Danbury on a Friday night. And when they hit Philly the next night, I was down in Seattle at Croc Shock.

Tuesday, though, my plane landed about 4:10 PM in Newark. That meant that, after waiting for what seemed like forever for my bags, I ended up being 40 minutes later to my first class of summer session ("I just flew in from Seattle," I explained. "That's the best excuse I've ever heard," responded a classmate.)

That gave me time to get home for a bit, shower, change and drive up to Maxwells in Hoboken for The Muffs. Yeah, I was tired, and had been seeing shows over and over again for a week, but... so what? Besides, it was two years ago this night that The Muffs played their first-ever East Coast show... at the Beat in Port Chester, NY to a crowd that was completely crazy about them.

Lots had happened in the meantime. Two months after that first dose, drummer Criss Crass was gone. And now the band is back... without rhythm guitarist Melanie Vammen (playing in the Leaving Trains, I'm told). In fact, they're just a three-piece now. So how was that? Well, actually, pretty damn good.

I suppose I should try and be a good li'l cub reporter and know the entire set list. Thing is, I wasn't writing it down and I didn't see it afterwards. Life sucks. I think they started with "Agony", but I'll have to ask around. Either way, the show ended up being a pretty even mix of the first LP and the second. All my favorite tracks from the debut appeared... "Big Mouth" and "Lucky Guy", of course. Plus new faves like the aforementioned "Agony", as well as "Nina", for which Kim was joined by everyone's favorite Bluesman. The nice thing is that Kim didn't get mad... nope, she smiled and moved over for him to join up. They didn't just stick to the LPs, though... and that was great, too. They also checked in on their 45s, doing The Zeros' "Beat Your Heart Out", "New Love" from the debut 45, and "Right In The Eye" from the flip of the "Guilty" single. The Muffs were playing their pop-lovin' hearts out in all the right punk ways.

It was interesting looking at all the younger faces in the audience. I wondered how many of these fans had been there last time around. I couldn't help but wonder if The Muffs were about to be "taken away from me". I guess the idea is not to let that happen - to keep enjoying the music, and be happy for the band as they get more popular. It's just that I can't shake the feeling that soon they'll be headlining larger clubs, and I won't get to see them in venues like Maxwells anymore. Maybe I'm wrong. But for their sake I hope I'm not. It's a tough call. What it comes down to though is this, "Did I have a good time?" Well, yeah, I did. They were damn good. I just wish I'd had more time to hang out with them afterwards. Especially since I ended up not being able to make it to CBGB's the next night.

Rumor has it that The Muffs will be touring later this summer with The Zeros and Cub. Somehow that seems perfect. The band really does seem like a cross between the two... well, I guess they're much closer to The Zeros, but you can definitely hear the pop elements, too. You want to see me completely and utterly gone? Just bring this tour somewhere within my striking distance.

MEMOREX:
What's scary is that I can't remember exactly when I first heard The Muffs. Must've been in late '91 or early '92. Probably the latter. But after hearing one 45, I was hooked, and went about getting everything as it came out, even scoring a live tape from Rockin' Ron Rimsite. I even did something I'd never really done before; I wrote a fan letter. And got one back from bassist Ronnie. In that one, he referred to the disc they were working on for Warner Brothers, their debut, saying, "Don't worry, it'll still sound like us." And it did. And then some. It was one of my favorite discs of the year (the other was by The Swingin' Neckbreakers), and remains on my fave disc list to this day. I saw them five times on their first swing to the East Coast, and then another three when they came back a couple months later.

Since then, The Muffs have gone through a few changes. First off, they've added a new drummer, Roy McDonald. Secondly, Warner Bros. shifted them to Reprise. But the biggest shock to Muffs' maniacs came when word came down the pike that rhythm guitarist Melanie Vammen was out of the band. What had happened, we wondered. Well, there's various versions of that, and I suppose it all depends on which you buy into. For now, I'll keep from churning the rumor mill and say only that I'll miss Melanie, as she was extremely fun to hang out with.

Blonder and Blonder (Reprise) is the group's new album. I could engage in idle critic musings and ask if there's a deeper meaning to that title... possibly describing the music, rather than just Kim's hair. But I'll stay on track. This one doesn't have the immediate bite of The Muffs, but that's not to say it's not another fantastic effort. ('Cuz it is.) Like their debut, it starts off with a kick (just not as swift), as "Agony" immediately jumps in with both melody and punch. The next one starts off on a real minor chord sort of note (and it does keep coming back), but as soon as Kim's vocal comes in, the melodic smile's right back up. Here, too, is where we see Kim's trademark screams coming on full-force. (I gotta wonder how long her vocal cords are gonna put up with that.) A particular favorite is "Red Eyed Troll", which echoes the 60's leanings of "Another Day" from the first LP, but raises the stakes that much higher, taking it further out, playing it a bit faster and harder. On the more ballad-oriented front, you've got "End It All", all nice & pretty. Back to the hard stuff then for "Laying On A Bed Of Roses". "I Need A Face" is compelling what with the chorus of "Hangin' On/Hangin' On/Hangin' On Me", then Kim solo and down a bit for "All the time". "Funny Face" is almost a sing-song type thing... I feel the urge to start a singalong to it. "Ethyl My Love" starts out almost like a garage version of "I Need You" from their 3rd 45. Not only that, it's got elements of an Original Sins' song to it... their heavier, more bass-minded stuff. In the tradition of the last LP, this one ends up with a soft, Kim-alone (well, actually, I think that might be her sister Kristen on the duet vocal parts) melody. Real pretty, and the perfect goodbye.

I guess what makes The Muffs so fantastic is their marriage (hmm, maybe that's a bad word considering the lineup changes... or maybe it's somehow appropriate... whatever) of melody to punk and garage. And, yeah, you can definitely hear 60s sounds held over in Kim's songs. Especially the pop ideals. What's nice is that there's always a chance that something will happen to break them bigtime. I listen to some of these songs and think that these have real potential in today's music world, something I would never have believed five years ago.


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