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Twisted Sister Still Hungry

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Thursday, November 4, 2004 @ 11:18 PM


(Spitfire)

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Wow. I always figured that this would eventually be the title for a future Blackie Lawless LP or maybe even the next Yngwie Malmsteen disc. Ya, you know—it would be kind of like, “Hey, I’m not done with that whole box of snack cakes, I’m ‘Still Hungry.’” Or, “Hey, you Burger King-working bitch! What happened to my other Whopper? I’m ‘Still Hungry.’” Remarkably enough, Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider doesn’t appear to suffer from that malady. Instead, what his band has done is take a command, “Stay Hungry” and change it to a mere comment. Just as they did in the title, TS may have also taken one of the classic metal albums of the period and redid the sound and many of the vocals and instrumentation and somehow made it less than it was in the process. The motivations for this type of tinkering are obvious—bands invariably claim to the press that they were originally dissatisfied with the recording of their past work and that they are altering the sound on the new offering “for the fans,” but if you believe that all of these reissues aren’t 95% money motivated, realize one thing: WHOPPERS AREN’T FREE, PAL and neither is this disc.

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Still Hungry consists of the core songs from the original issue, as well as seven additional bonus tracks. “Stay Hungry” begins the festivities without many significant differences having been made, but as soon as “We’re Not Gonna Take It” kicks in, the alterations become instantly apparent. The song is lower end with the guitars/bass plodding along to a tempo that is noticeably slower than the original. There is also a solo that has been added which isn’t bad, but it does tend to distract a listener who has already been programmed to expect the classic version. The biggest drawback on this hit though concerns the vocals, which don’t seem to have the conviction that was evident on Stay Hungry. Regardless of what Twisted Sister decided to change about the other tracks, tinkering this much with a song that is as recognizable and as much of a signature song as this one surely seems ill-advised—especially considering the results. Right in the first two tracks, the listener gets a taste of what the this version offers: when it is effective, tunes like “Stay Hungry” are enjoyable and have more impact, but when it is ineffective, the songs can be frustrating, slow and lacking in vocal punch.

Unfortunately, three of the most frustrating songs are also some of the better tunes. The music for “Burn In Hell” sounds solid at first, and expectations are definitely there, but Dee’s penchant for taking out the highest part of the notes combined with backup singing that sounds like an offensive line is chanting in the background negate any advances the group has made here musically. When I say that the singing in the chorus sounds like a bunch of football linemen, I don’t mean linemen from like, a good team. I mean, these guys sound like linemen from shitty, slow squads like the Miami Dolphins or this year’s Nebraska Cornhuskers. Not only that, it sounds like these pigskin brawlers might also suffer from a profound form of mental retardation. The effect isn’t exactly horrid, but it isn’t better than the original either. The same is true of “The Price,” where Dee doesn’t seem to find it necessary to hit the highest part of “oh, hard times”—I guess because it just isn’t lo-fi enough or hardcore enough or underground enough. In any case, it gets a thumbs down as does “Horror Teria: Captain Howdy”—not because of the way they chose to deal with it here, but mostly because they didn’t rewrite the whole song and call it something else. I realize that many of you walk around singing the chorus about staying away from Captain Howdy and all that bullshit, but you know, give your grandma a break already—hell, she already lets you live in her basement, the least you can do is give her some peace. “S.M.F.” is just too slow. It’s sounds like back in the day when you bought a cassette that dragged and everything was just slightly off—that’s how this is.

The quality older songs are “I Wanna Rock,” “Don’t Let Me Down” and “The Beast.” On these tracks, the vocals are close to the originals while the music attains the tone the band was looking for—a fuller sound. A.J. Pero’s drumming is strong and pronounced, and Mark Mendoza’s bass playing holds things down for Jay Jay French and Eddie Ojeda to display their skills as talented axemen. The problems with the other songs never concern the musicianship of the band—people know that Twisted Sister could bring the noise live. They are truly a good group—the problems exclusively stem from the vocals, background vocals, their interpretation of these songs and how they have chosen to try to perfect them.

The extra tunes originating from Club Daze and the original Stay Hungry sessions are more than decent with “Never Say Never” and “Blastin’ Fast and Loud,” qualifying as classic TS rockers. Actually, if the band would have went with these two tracks from the ‘84 sessions instead of “Terra Horror” and “Street Justice,” the record would have even been stronger than it was. The next two offerings--“Come Back” and “Plastic Money” aren’t quite on the same level, but the guitar work on these as well as that evidenced on “You Know I Cry” make them close and well worth the time to listen. “Rock and Roll Saviors” and Strangeland soundtrack’s “Heroes Are Hard To Find” close the disc on a definite high note. These aren’t the typical type of throwaway songs most fans have come to expect in reissues or hastily produced package sets.

Basically, Still Hungry is an interesting enough experiment that hits as much as it misses on the old standards, but the bonus tracks are probably enough for TS fans to purchase this effort anyway. Regardless of any criticism, this work is truly listenable even if disconcerting at times. Face it, messing with one’s memories is always an extremely tenuous endeavor, and this is no different. The Megadeth reissues had some distinct changes, but they weren’t quite as striking or didn’t seem to intrude as much as some of the alterations made here. The complaint made most of the time in reference to the original Stay Hungry was that it sounded a little too polished or overproduced for its own good. Well, if it did, consider the simple fact that these songs were actually played on the radio, and that Twisted Sister always possessed a definite chorus and a sense of melody in their songs. It wasn’t like they were a pussy band--TS was heavier than Poison or Danger Danger, but then again, so was REO Speedwagon. The fact is that Twisted Sister was radio-friendly metal in the same way Ratt or Shout at the Devil-era Motley Crue was. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and there was nothing intrinsically wrong with the original recording, but what they were trying to achieve regarding a heavier sound is clear. I’m just not sure if redoing the vocals in a less convincing manner, slowing down the tempo and changing the tone of the bass or adding a guitar solo here and there achieved the objective.

Ultimately, a purchase of this disc would be like Blackie or Yngwie going to McDonald’s and ordering a “New Triple Decker Big Mac.” At first glance, they would have to think it a dream come true—it would only be after they started eating it that they would discover that in addition to the extra patty, Mickey D’s also decided to alter the special sauce ever so slightly. You know, yeah, they’d still fuckin’ eat it and everything—no doubt about that—but the experience would different and in many ways less enjoyable. In the end they would be left to simply belch and declare that they were “Still Hungry.”

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