Two years after their self-titled 1993 debut, the Muffs stripped down to a trio with the departure of Melanie Vammen (less than a week before recording) and the arrival of new drummer Roy McDonald. The result is tighter, punchier and even more ferocious than the first outing, with Kim Shattuckâ€™s songwriting sharpened and her vocals often escalating into howls. The album is a perfect example of pop-punk, marrying the catchy melodies of the former with the unrestrained energy of the latter. Shattuckâ€™s rhythm guitar playing is tough, but her leads have the melodic winsomeness of Gary Lewis & The Playboys records. Even the suicide song, â€œEnd It All,â€ is hummable.
Shattuck notes in the liners that â€œOn and Onâ€ was influenced by Freddie & The Dreamers, and indeed the opening riff is lifted from â€œIâ€™m Telling You Now.â€ She also notes that â€œLaying on a Bed of Rosesâ€ borrows from the Creationâ€™s â€œBiff Bang Pow,â€ and with the transvestite of â€œOh, Ninaâ€ echoing the Kinksâ€™ â€œLola,â€ the British Invasion connection is strong. Her lyrics can be self-pitying (â€œSad Tomorrowâ€) and bratty (â€œWonâ€™t Come Out to Playâ€), but sheâ€™s nobodyâ€™s fool, easily kicking a cheater to the curb in â€œWhat Youâ€™ve Done.â€ The album closes with an unusual segue between the freakout â€œIâ€™m Confusedâ€ and the spiffed-up acoustic demo â€œJust a Game,â€ ending in a couplet that encapsulates the yin and yang of punk-pop.
Omnivoreâ€™s 2016 reissue adds the UK B-sides â€œBecome Undoneâ€ and â€œGoodnight Now,â€ and demos of â€œRed Eyed Troll,â€ â€œWonâ€™t Come Out to Playâ€ (with its Buddy Holly roots intact) and â€œPennywhoreâ€ (which turned up on Happy Birthday to Me). Also featured are demos of â€œBorn Todayâ€ and â€œLook at Me,â€ neither of which seem to have made it to final form. Unlike the guitar-and-voice demos on the debut albumâ€™s reissue, these tracks have basic bass and drums that indicate what theyâ€™d sound like as band songs. Thereâ€™s a taste of Shattuckâ€™s demo of â€œBecome Undoneâ€ at the end of track twenty-one, and a hidden backwards CD bonus track at #22, but the demo of â€œIâ€™m Confusedâ€ that Shattuck lauds in the liners is MIA.
The reissueâ€™s 20-page booklet includes numerous photos, liner notes by Ronnie Barrett and Roy McDonald, the latter detailing his second chance at joining the band, and song notes by Shattuck. This is a good upgrade for fans who already have the original album, and the place to start for those who havenâ€™t yet dived into the Muffs. [Â©2016 Hyperbolium]