Although Alien Sex Fiend emerged via England’s early-’80s Batcave movement, the group was hardly typical of the era’s gothic genre. From its 1983 debut, “Ignore the Machine,” ASF established a unique sound, melding ghoulish frontman Nik Fiend’s (Wade) creepy Cockney-accented ravings to the pulsing cosmic keyboards of his consort, Mrs. Fiend; Johnny Ha-Ha’s drums are integrated with a burbling rhythm box, while Yaxi High-rizer spins off primitive Link Wray-via-the-Cramps guitar. Neither did they fit into the decadent glam image propagated by Specimen: theatrical enough to be their own horror movie, Nik’s Herman Munster/Alice Cooper synthesis is an original and enjoyable musical persona.
Undisturbed by mainstream trends, the Fiends have made a long, lunatic career out of a comic-book aesthetic and their own hallucinogenic strain of humor; through an untold number of releases, the only thing they ever seem to take seriously is having a freaky old time.
The first LP is a charming collection of psychopunk like “Wish I Woz a Dog” and “Wild Women.” The most concise ASF record, it’s like a ’50s monster movie soundtrack returned from the dead. The US edition subtracts one tune in favor of the catchy and audacious B-side “Drive My Rocket (Up Uranus)”; a live track and “Crazee” were added to the later CD.
Less guitar-driven production emphasizes Mrs. Fiend’s gloriously spooky synth blips on Acid Bath, an inspired dose of mesmerizing, brain-frying insanity. The spacey “E.S.T. (Trip to the Moon)” and “Attack!!!” (a surging rocker) lead the pack of cool cuts. (The CD adds a psychobilly B-side, “Boneshaker Baby,” a live cut and a dub mix.)
The small scope of the band’s repertoire at that point makes the live Liquid Head in Tokyo unessential, although completists will want it for the otherwise unrecorded “Back to the Egg,” which was written just for the Eastern adventure.
Maximum Security is a big departure from the first two albums, and the least of all the Fiendworks. Bleak and predominantly slow, the material is built on machine beats (replacing Ha-Ha’s human touch) and suffers from a somewhat monotonous sameness. The title track (also released as a 45) is a notable exception.
The Fiends came right back, though, with I Walk the Line, a robust four-song 12-inch which struck a new singles mold for the band: danceable rhythms overlaid by aerodynamic guitar riffs. (The EP also contains a smoking Fiendization of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.”) This set the stage for “It” the Album, unquestionably the group’s most creative, mind-expanding undertaking. The sound is far looser and more organic (“Get Into It” is one particularly loopy example), and many of the songs — like the entrancing “Manic Depression” — are stretched to psychedelic lengths. The cassette edition pairs it with Maximum Security.
The Impossible Mission Mini L.P. combines “The Impossible Mission” 45 (a groovy instrumental) and its fuzzbuster Cramps-like B-side, “My Brain Is in the Cupboard Above the Kitchen Sink,” with two previous singles — the driving “Smells Like…” (also on “It”) and a cover of Red Crayola’s “Hurricane Fighter Plane” — and their B-sides, seven tracks in all. The subsequent Here Cum Germs (which also contains both sides of the “Impossible Mission” single) is a hastily recorded but competent album, with a new drummer (Rat Fink) and increasing friction with guitarist Yaxi complicating the process. Nonetheless, the title cut, the acoustic- flavored “Isolation” (the closest they’ve come to a ballad) and the epic “Boots On!” are high spots.
Yaxi departed after Germs, leading to All Our Yesterdays, a consistently high-quality end-of-an-era singles compilation that should definitely be the first choice for those new to Fiendom. (The CD and tape include, as a bonus, “Drive My Rocket (Up Uranus).”) Alien Sex Fiend (The First Compact Disc) is just Maximum Security with single sides added as extras: “E.S.T. (Trip to the Moon),” “Attack!!!,” a Peel session rendition of “Boneshaker Baby” and a remix of “Ignore the Machine.”
The extremely entertaining Another Planet is an Alien Sex Fiend watershed, as the revitalized duo and their capable cohorts (including drummer Rat Fink on guitar) deliver the goods. The wacky, sample-based “Bun-Ho! (Time After Time)” sits among such gripping, streamlined rockers as “Sample My Sausage,” “Nightmare Zone” and “Everybody’s Dream.” Meanwhile, studio pranks like “Wild Green Fiendy Liquid” and “Instant Karma Sutra” add to the overall psychotronic aura. (The CD adds a searing cover of Hawkwind’s “Silver Machine” and the Stones’ “Satisfaction.”)
Too Much Acid? is a splendid double-live album from a spring ’89 European jaunt. With Rat Fink Jr. and Doctor Milton, who both play various permutations of guitar, drums and keyboards, hanging in from Another Planet, it’s great to hear the material — mainly singles, including the then-current 45 “Haunted House” (a Fiends-on-45 medley set to house beats) — flow with such free-form elasticity. The A.S.F. Box contains a fun mixture of previously issued material: three 12-inches, the R.I.P. 10-inch EP and an 11-inch historical curio (the E.S.T. EP). There’s also a booklet, a poster, a T-shirt and, last (but certainly not least), a plastic turd.
Returning to the more experimental “It” mold, Curse emphasizes longer tracks like the monstrous three-part masterpiece “Katch 22,” whose creeping, neo-orchestral bounce suggests Laibach on acid. Such hypnotics as “Ain’t Got Time to Bleed” and the bug-eyed- boogie single “Now I’m Feeling Zombiefied” alternate with faster, maniacal blasts like “Eat! Eat! Eat!” and “Burger Bar Baby.” The CD and cassette add five, including a Cramps semi-cover, “Mad Daddy Drives a U.F.O.,” and an insane gig announcement, “Radio Jimi.”
Each of the two separate CDs in The Collection, Drive My Rocket and I’m Her Frankenstein, offers 13 items from the Fiend files: singles (including a 1987 Xmas single, “Stuff the Turkey”), album tracks, remixes, rarities and alternate versions.
Down to the essential Fiend duo, “in collaboration with Mat Rowlands,” ASF went clubbing on Nocturnal Emissions, a slow moving and occasionally tiresome mass of beats, samples, chanted vocals and squonky synth noises. The 2000 reissue, dubbed “Special Edition,” has new artwork and two bonus remixes of its single, “Evolution.”
The duo’s techno-beat wig is decidedly tighter on Inferno, the slick soundtrack to a video game that is styled less as electronic dance music than as burbling loops to accompany the action. Created with a delicate hand, much of the music is pleasant going on lovely, resembling early Depeche Mode or OMD in spots.