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A nasty lead, twisted lyrics, saw blade codpieces, and a catchy chorus = PMRC all over your ass. Back then, this song was one of the most controversial slabs of heavy metal around. Funny, because if something like this was popular today it really would look tame. To me, gangstas talking about bitches ‘n shit still look like child’s in comparison to W.A.S.P..
The version is just about as thrilling as the debut, and considering that this song is one of the highlight tracks, it sounds much less dull than the others. Bass thankfully isn’t a sideshow and acts as a second groove along with the flamboyant lead. Drumming rips hysterically behind Lawless’ wails of lust and temptation, giving us a track of broken hearts and renewal – also in no small part thanks to the classy solo.
Since W.A.S.P. was grouped with the glam scene, it was easy to assume that this song would be their only hit track. Not only would the debut shatter that hypothesis, but also pretty much every other album would destroy our expectations. The other tracks aren’t too bad either, but they’re less stellar and silly. “Show No Mercy” plays out like a typical track on the debut and only stands out from a somber chorus and depressive bass; not lead, but bass. It sounds sloppy, though, so it’s harder to get into than the other songs.
The live tracks, “Hellion” and “Mississippi Queen,” have tons of energy – you can hear it quite well and the crowd never quiets down. However, the production could have been a bit better, since it sounds extremely thin and faded. Bass is nonexistent on both tracks, drumming kind of clunky, and the guitars don’t really have any lasting power. Blackie himself never tires out, thankfully, so the energy is never lost. “Mississippi Queen” to my recollection sounds nowhere near as good as the studio version (as a bonus) on The Last Command, but it’s a nice attempt at a cover before they pulled it off for real.
Overall, this single is respectable. It stirred up a ton of trouble that only fueled the fires for W.A.S.P. and helped establish them in the glam scene. Eventually they started to mature and progress further into heavy metal, but their early days no doubt were a lot more fun.
“…pain and hunger all across then thunder…”
Sometimes you know exactly where you were when you heard a certain song or a particular band. There I am waiting on the bus that takes me home from school. Most of the kids are on it already, but we’re still waiting for the stragglers who’re toking it up in the bathroom, and in the meantime our driver is yakking with her bus buddies on the sidewalk. Someone’s playing something on a boom box near the front of the bus; it’s this kid Elliot who’s a year older and plays on the Jr. Varsity football team. All I know about him is that over the year he’s worn a lot of The Police shirts. What he’s playing sounds cool. Real cool, and even heavy. The other kids are listening intently, smiling, getting a kick out of whatever it is. In a blurb of chatter silence I hear something sounding like “I fuck like a beast!” gnarled by a guy with the pipes of a condor. Wow, who the hell is this? Seconds later, the driver gets on and makes him shut it off. Thankfully I get off before him, so before I escape school’s claws for the day, I drum up the gumption to ask him about the song - my introduction to W.A.S.P. and their most prolific song.
Now that you’re bored to death, I ask you ‘is it depressing when the damn Jr. Varsity tight end who wouldn’t know a heavy band if it drove through his living room knows about a band like W.A.S.P. and you don’t?’ Blackie and the gang are now so established they’re barely noticed as ever being an underground band (and with their debut on Capitol/EMI, they technically weren’t, but hey), so if the incident occurred five years ago, yeah probably. In ’84, nah. My money’s on he tripped over the disk’s cover somewhere on his way to getting the latest Eddie Money record, saw the intellectual codpiece cover, song title and low price, and suckered his ‘ol lady into giving him money for ‘some other’ album he wanted.
Enough rambling. The chest-pounding “Animal” has many moments hallmark to an anthem – a central issue most can empathize with, a streaming sing-a-long chorus, some attitude, and deviant catchiness that sticks in your head like an ice pick – but isn’t really perceived as one unless you’re as lucky in love as people like Paul Stanley or David Lee Roth. Any enraged demeanor the song builds is a direct descendant of Blackie’s harsh, stentorian lungs that should’ve easily distanced the band from anything lurking in the glam realm, yet still some clueless writers back then (and even today) managed to lump the two together. With a major label leering, there’s no way this song would’ve made it onto the original debut. Didn’t matter, ‘cause the song fairly quickly gained favor with the kids and eventually made its rounds. It also had 'one-hit wonder' written all over it, but of course their future stellar debut would wipe away that graffiti.
“Show No Mercy” is a great b-side – raucous, belligerent, lyrics of free-firing rebellion and posturing, and with an ending that’s just slightly epic in its fading grandeur. It’s a song that can’t usurp the timelessness of the main tune, but is stronger in its straightforward dozer appeal, and personally is the side I listen to more.
There are few songs that kick started a rock/metal band’s career better than “Animal”, one that fired up eagerness in those it reached even if they hadn’t known the band’s name or seen the album cover or the members. I’m not saying the song’s beloved by everyone, but it certainly caused a stir.
The moral of the story is never begin writing what should be a relatively short review right after a friend gives you some of her prescription amphetamines.