New Hope for the Wretched, which was “produced” by Jimmy Miller, represents the Plasmatics’ first stage — mere artless gimmickry — as conceived by the group’s manager and lyricist, ex-porn entrepreneur Rod Swenson. Former sex-show queen Wendy O. Williams hoarsely talks/shouts/heavy-breathes lyrics jumbling the psychotronic film aesthetic (sex, violence, gratuitous grotesqueries) accompanied by a band playing with no subtlety whatever at punk speed and volume, reprising the “best” bits of the ‘Matics’ preceding proto-hardcore indie singles (e.g., Williams buzzsawing a guitar in half). Entertaining for its sheer crassness perhaps, though hardly listenable.
Beyond the Valley of 1984, though, is quite listenable, if only intermittently memorable. Swenson’s lyrics aspire to nightmares of apocalypse and superhuman lust and degradation. The music is likewise heavier, but clearer and not without flashes of finesse: punchy drums (courtesy of guest Neal Smith, once of the Alice Cooper ensemble), good guitar squeals from Swenson’s main writing collaborator, Richie Stotts, and even a culture-shock backing-vocals appearance by the girl-group Angels. (The CD on the PVC label appends Metal Priestess.)
Metal Priestess — 25 minutes at a sub-LP price — is the best buy of the lot: smokin’ live versions of two of Beyond‘s best, not to mention proof that Williams can sweetly carry a tune, as grim as it is (“Lunacy”). Co-produced by Dan Hartman (!) and Swenson, it captures the band in mid-transition to metal; part of that change included the departure (early in the project) of Beauvoir for his solo and production career.
Wendy kicks off the awkwardly metallicized Coup d’état with some superhuman screaming (a compliment, really!), but it’s downhill from there. While Side A’s simpleminded messages — “Put Your Love in Me,” “Stop” (“the rape of the earth”), etc. — are capped by an adequate take on Motörhead’s “No Class,” the lyrics on the backside echo the fever-dreams of Beyond and Priestess, but less compellingly.
When Stotts left (to form the Richie Stotts Experience and King Flux, which also included Marc Bell between stints in the Ramones), it was decided to drop the Plasmatics name. In came Michael Ray to play flashy licks, and Williams’ transformation to metal priestess was complete. With writing and performing help from Kiss bandmates, Gene Simmons produced W.O.W., on which Wendy sounds like a hoarse Joan Jett doing Kiss outtakes.
K.O.K. is modestly successful speedy metal and speedmetal, but the sex-goddess role-playing (Motörhead’s “Jailbait,” “Bad Girl,” “F**k That Booty”) falls as flat as ever; Williams’ voice has always been too tough for that. Her singing is much more suited to the apocalyptic world-domination concept album that followed. Deffest! and Baddest! is (gulp) Wendy O’s rap album.
Williams, who had gone on to a quiet vegetarian life in a Connecticut suburb with Swenson, shot herself to death in 1998.