Ok, so Alien Sex Fiend aren’t a Flash Metal band in the traditional sense — they aren’t anything in the traditional sense, really — but they are exactly what would happen if Flash Metal took a whole lotta acid. In fact, 1987’s Here Cum Germs sounds pretty much like a flash metal record, if flash metal guitars were made out of cartoons that dripped right out of your hands and melted into the floor. It is the flash metal funhouse mirror, a plastic-fantastic slayground full of green-skinned ghouls and creepy-crawling insects and corrosive dope disco and jagged, gone-all-to-hell glam guitars and a throbbing neon aura of pure, gleeful madness. Alien Sex Fiend were probably too cool/crazy for the flash metal crowd, but they stole a few of their riffs anyway.
Alien Sex Fiend is the creation of Nik Fiend (aka Nick Wade) and perpetual left-hand girl (and wife) Mrs. Fiend (Chris Wade), and whatever undead slaves they can conjure up. Nik already had a long history in rock’n’roll however, as a member of The Earwigs (not Alice Cooper’s old band), and, more notably, Demon Preacher. DP formed in 1975, played their first gig — opening for the Unwanted, who would later morph into goth-glammers Specimen — in 1977, released a couple fun, catchy singles and, in their latter days, boasted a pre-Hanoi Razzle on drums and Boo and Jimbo — later of proto-glam punk flash metal suicides the Babysitters — on bass and guitar, respectively. They broke up in 1980 after playing the Isle of Wight festival wrecked to the tits on mushrooms, which, apparently, fucked them all up for good. Said mushroom weirdness, legend has it, is where the Alien Sex Fiend idea first came to Mr. Fiend.
Alien Sex Fiend proper (after a short stint as mouthful Mr and Mrs Demeannout) formed in ‘82, one of the many bands that grew from the Batcave, the legendary London death-rock nightclub where Specimen was the house band and where the Sisters of Mercy, the (Southern Death) Cult, the Cure, Bauhaus, Nick Cave, the certified flash disco suicides Soft Cell, and many other notable creatures of the night played, and hung out, and did whatever skinny vampires do. Goth hadn’t actually been invented yet, which is why all those bands ended up being seminal - they were making it up as they went along, and pretty much all they had to go on was they all liked Bowie and The Sweet and Bela Lugosi.
ASF released their first single, Ignore the Machine, in 1983. It was produced by Killing Joke main-man Youth (who, in 1991, formed the ill-fated techno-sleaze band “Zodiac Youth” with Zodiac Mindwarp), and had plenty of airplay on college radio at the time. Matter of fact, if you’re over 40, you surely remember it. Over a bare-bones drum beat and a stuttering punk rock guitar, a crazed Nik shouts “Everybody wants, what everybody’s got/and everybody’s got, what everybody wants!”
Anyway, although hardly goth in the musical sense, their Alice Cooper-ish stage-show and their glamtronica-meets fuzzpunk sound caught on with the batwing kids. They never got to operate on the level of their peers, whose black hair dye and suicide drone-poems were catching on with lonely teenagers all over the world, and making ‘em all a buncha mopey millionaires, but despite tiny budgets, ASF poured it on, man, with zombie make-up and stages covered in spiderwebs and their crazy, bubbling blood circus freakwave.
Albums followed - ‘83’s Who’s Been Sleeping in My Brain, and ‘84’s brain-boiling Acid Bath (featuring the whacked-out goth-club hit In God We Trust (In Cars You Rust), another one you probably remember — “The skin is stretched, the skin is blue!”) established Alien Sex Fiend as the closest you could possibly get to a real life Addams Family. While British audiences were more accepting of these homegrown weirdos, Sex Fiend were thoroughly too much for American audiences, even during the height of the flash metal surge. As Nik explained in Beatbox magazine in 1985, “Nobody ever came into the dressing room. In Los Angeles, they think we’re cannibals.” A pity, really. The visual evidence — rail-thin Fiend vamping it up as a twitching mess of short-circuiting wires-made-flesh in a haze of green smoke, the Missuz cool and beautiful behind him, pumping out haunted-house lullabies on her synth — was as compelling and exciting as any of the spandex superstars that were actually from LA, and I don’t think anybody was ever afraid that Motley Crue were actually gonna chop them to bits and hang their guts onstage like streamers.
1987’s Here Cum Germs was Sex Fiends’ most abrasive album to date at that point. It’s so fucking crazy it doesn’t even sound like the work of humans. And the funny thing is, I’m reasonably sure it was their attempt at a ‘proper’ rock record. I love that they dropped it in everybody’s laps during the summer of Whitesnake. Here Cum Germs is the anti-Whitesnake. It’s Whitesnake eaten by snakes and regurgitated during a drug-fueled orgy.
It opens with The Impossible Mission, which sounds pretty much like a rickety hot rod hearse riding down the street on three wheels. In typical ASF fashion, it gives you no clues as to what’s going on, or what’s about to happen. It just is, man. Here Cum Germs is the same drum pattern as the Impossible Mission, minus the bass lines, and with an even more clipped riff. It sounds like a panicky Sigue Sigue Sputnik. At some point, Nik, raving like a Cockney madman, starts yelling about, well, germs.
“Coming through the window /Coming through the door /Living underneath the floor Underneath the sink /They’re underneath the sink Now what do you think /Living under my sink?”
Who the fuck writes lyrics like this? Toss in a confusing chorus (“Peace and love is a silly thing!”) and you’ve got a real mind-bender, Jack. A mindbender you can dance to, even. Side one closer My Brain is in the Cupboard, Above the Kitchen Sink is a monster. It’s a corrosive glam-punk tune, featuring an acid-drenched Gary Glitter-cum-Link Wray riff and hand-claps care of the drum machine, and that’s pretty much it, aside from Nik’s howling and carrying on about his missing brain (“It’s not in my head, so I don’t have to think!”), but it’s simplicity belies it’s ability to rock like a motherfucker. One of my favorite songs ever, and certainly one of the best of the era, which is remarkable, since I’m pretty sure Nik wrote it as he went along.
Side one only hinted that Alien Sex Fiend was quite mad- side two proves it, inconclusively, with a trio of tracks that escalate in length and dementia as they roll on. You Are Soul is five minutes of bubblegum-flash metal riffs, disco beats, and ranting. It sounds like Tony James forcing Hanoi Rocks to play space-metal, at gun-point. It’s pretty fuckin’ boss, man. Death is 11 minutes of wormy bass, new-wavey synth plinkings, thudding drumbeats, and a dive-bombing goth metal riff, as Nik narrates your journey to the after-life in a PIL-era Lydon-esque bored snarl. “Where is it that we’re going? Will it be hot, or will it be snowing? Death!” It ends, eventually, in a swirl of metallic noise. Madness.
Closer Boots On is 23 minutes long. “I don’t mind sleeping with my boots on, in the summertime” is pretty much the only discernible lyric. Otherwise, Nik appears to be ranting to himself, (“I’ve got 14 animal heads, I wear my hat when I go to bed”) as if he didn’t even know the tape was rolling. I’m not sure if any of them knew the tape was rolling, because the music pretty much consists of two drum machines barking at each other.
It ends the only way it possible could, in the Reagan daze:
“It’s the end of the world. Boo hoo. It’s the end of the fuckin’ world, and nobody cares.”
End of the record, too. But certainly not the end of Alien Sex Fiend. They are still together and still releasing albums. If you haven’t been zombified yet, then you’re missing out on one of rock n’ roll’s greatest freakscenes. I tell you this much - I don’t know what I would’ve done in 1987 without ‘em. We didn’t all love fuckin’ Whitesnake back then, ya know.
Next week: Are you Tuff enough?