REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Come Out and Play (1985)

“Twisted Sister…come out and play!”  Happy anniversary to Come Out and Play released on this day 34 years ago.

 

TWISTED SISTER – Come Out and Play (1985 Atlantic LP & Spitfire CD remaster)

What was a band at the proverbial crossroads to do? Continue along the commercial path of the 3 million copy selling Stay Hungry?  Or revert to the tried and true heavy-as-an-SMF sound of yore?

There was only one dissenting vote.  Bassist Mark “The Animal” Mendoza felt that putting “Leader of the Pack” on the new album was a mistake.  The other four voted “yes” but some grew to regret it.  Both Dee Snider and J.J. French have since realized the error of their ways.  Today, Come Out and Play is acknowledged as the beginning of the end, though it has its fans and some sturdy tracks to support it.

Twisted Sister recruited Scorpions producer Dieter Dierks and enlisted high profile guest stars like Alice Cooper, Billy Joel, Brian Setzer and Clarence Clemons.  They were top-loaded onto a old-time rock and roller called “Be Chrool to Your Scuel”, and the gamble backfired immediately when MTV banned the music video for its zombies and ghouls.  It’s an interesting track at least.  You don’t hear a sax solo on a Twisted Sister song every day, nor the kind of plucking that Brian Setzer deals in.

“Leader of the Pack” was a failure as well, actually a re-recording of a track that debuted on the Ruff Cuts EP.  The video (starring the then-hot Bobcat Golthwaite) further painted Twisted Sister as a novelty band.

Tensions, especially between Mendoza and Snider, were amplified.  The songs that sound like they were meant to be “hits” fall far short.  The impression you get from “You Want What We Got” is that it was intended to be a specific kind of hit.  Unfortunately it’s just a repetitive anthem.  “Lookin’ Out for #1” is similarly filler, a song that never quite clicks.

Some tracks maintained a heavy rock presence. They include the anthem “I Believe In Rock and Roll”.  It’s a manifesto for the PMRC generation; a decent attempt that just misses the mark.  “Come Out and Play” features A.J. Pero nailing down a speedy beat, but the production of Dierks neutered the powerful drummer.  Dierks introduced keyboards to some of the tracks, watering them down needlessly.  “The Fire Still Burns” works better than some of the other songs, and despite the production you can hear A.J. is just crushing the kit.  If the backing vocals sound unusually lush, that’s Don Dokken and Gary Holland.  “Out on the Streets” trades the speed in for plaintive melodies, and is the better for it.  Finally “Kill or Be Killed” does what it promises.  Unbelievable that A.J. could play at such a relentless velocity, but he was an absolute beast.

Strangely, some of the best tracks are the ballads.  Dark ballads.  Ballads of depression, of loneliness, of alienation.  “I Believe in You” is the first of two, bolstered by strong melodies and Dee Snider’s enviable pipes.  The one that impresses the most is the CD and cassette bonus track “King of the Fools”.  Although “Kill or Be Killed” ends the album just fine, this coda adds some substance.  Sounding like a man destroyed, Dee sings the melancholy lyrics.

What kind of kingdom has no throne?
No crown or castle do I own,
I don’t have silver gold or jewels,
Yet I’m the king, king of the fools.

It’s surprisingly thoughtful songwriting, complimenting the mournful melodies.  Yet there is a defiant, powerful streak in the choruses.

King of the fools,
Who are these people to cast stones?
King of the fools,
Better a fool than just a clone.

Dee Snider has always resonated with the underdogs, the bullied, the downtrodden.  “King of the Fools” might be the most honest of all those songs.  Some regal guitar melodies by J.J. French and Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda show that they were picking up what Dee was laying down.

Here’s the catch though.  If you’re buying this album, you need “King of the Fools”.  To get it, you’ll want the CD.  But Come Out and Play might be most notable for the album cover you can only get on vinyl.  Open up that manhole cover and out pops Dee Snider in all his…all his…rags.

Heeere’s Dee!

Do what I did.  Get CD and LP, just for the cover.  Everybody needs a pop-up Dee Snider.

2.5/5 stars

8 comments

  1. Just found out that Ol’ Billy Blue Balls (Bill Burr) is gonna be in the new STAAAAAAAR WAAAAARS show. Even though he hates STAAAAAR WAAAARS, and has made fun of it and it’s fans at every opportunity. Ol’ BIlly Booze Bag is really movin’ up in the world. Freckles in the staaaars. Can’t wait for Ol’ Billy Red Nutz to find a LAAAAAYDEEEEEE in space. LeBrain, you need the Freckles action figure. Old Billy Ball Bag could use the support!

    On Twisted Sister. Bobcat’s lastname is spelled “Goldthwait”. Whoopsie. You’re definitely not the first to mess that up. “Out on the Streets” and “I Believe in You” are my choice cutz off this one. The title track gets me head banging too.

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  2. I forgot about the popup Snider. I thought it was so cool at the time. I was so into TS that with a friend of mine we made this huge flag with all things Twisted Sister related drawn on it and took it with us to the festival show. That is dedication. I think it took us a week to get the thing done. Wish I had a photo of it. Or not. Kinda like the self made logos on your first denim vest or school book cover.

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  3. “King of the Fools” made me glad that I got the album on cassette as to me, it’s the best track on the album. I get what you say about “Looking Out for #1” being a bit repetitive but at the time, those lyrics spoke to me personally. That’s why I like it so much. “Leader of the Pack” on the album was a mistake and I thought TS were screwed over by MTV for banning “Be Cruel to Your Skool.” Just more PMRC bullshit. I think they should have released “The Fire Still Burns” as a single, especially since that and the title cut are the only two songs from the album they played live the last two times I saw them at Bloodstock. You’re right, this album marked the beginning of the end for them. I remember in the summer of 86, their albums were all reduced to half price.

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  4. If I ever come across this album at a decent price I would pick it up. Never owned it but I bought it for my younger brother Todd for Xmas in 86 so I could hear it. Leader of the Pack
    just sucked that they went that way with a cover tune and the video was goofy as well. So I never gave it a fair shake.
    My brother must have liked it as he bought Love is for Suckers himself when that came out!
    Here we are three-plus decades later discussing this which is awesome.

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  5. This is one that when I heard “Leader of the Pack”, I was immediately turned off. I went bye-bye as a fan at this point. I stuck with the early albums. I do think this would be great on vinyl as the cover is awesome. Now I want it for that reason only.

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  6. Apart from Be Cruel and Leader I like the album and I totally agree that King Of The Fools And I Believe In You are some of the best songs on the album, along with the title track, Out On The Streets, Kill Or Be Killed And I Believe in RNR.
    I’ve got it on CD and Vinyl.

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