Things like this get said a lot but, in this case, there is actually verifiable proof: while they were working, prairie-based punk band Personality Crisis were were in a league of their own. Granted, the band was not around for very long (Personality Crisis formed in 1979 and ran until 1984) and Creatures For Awhile was their only release – but that release has never fallen by the wayside. To date, Creatures For Awhile has been reissued four times (originally released in 1983 on Risky Records, it was first reissued on Overground Records in 1989. then again on War On Music in 2008 and now on Porterhouse Records) and understandably finds receptive ears every time. Why? Well, because the album just sounds so different from what listeners normally expect of a punk album; while the image of punk has always made the most of young and snotty voice and nervous energy, Personality Crisis singer Mitch Funk’s tone is incredibly rich, thick and deep. Not only that, while Personality Crisis does feature a few elements which could be called “similar toe The Misfits,” such similarities are completely superficial, at most; these songs swagger where most punk songs spit nervously, and Creatures For Awhile punches boldly, where most punks try to stick and move. While there are enough similarities that listeners will recognize this album as undeniably punk, they’ll also recognize it as “punk of a very different stripe than its peers.”
It could be contended that the difference between Creatures For Awhile and pretty much everything else is the reason why it keeps coming back and continues to find fresh ears. Those reasons are all readily apparent as soon as stylus touches down and “Vampire’s Dream” opens the A-side of the album. There, the combination of Duane Eddie’s bass, the twin guitars of Jimmy Green and Richard Duguay and the drumming of a pre-SNFU/DOA/Subhuman Jon Card hits hard and powerfully in a manner similar to Walk Among Us-era Misfits which is perfectly easy to take for the right ears – but the owners of those ears will take pause as soon as Mitch Funk steps to the mic. From note one of his performance, Funk’s thick, hoarse and husky snarl completely overtakes and becomes the defining characteristic of “Vampire’s Dream”; Funk’s doubled vocal is pretty garbled (sounds a little like it was mumbled through a mouthful of marbles), but the sound is incredibly raucous and anthemic that it will ensnare listeners – capture their attention and make them throw fists in the air. You might not know exactly what Funk is on about, but he is definitely on.
The primordial success of “Vampire’s Dream” is only slightly diminished as the A-side continues with “Mrs Palmer.” The low end in that song is definitely a little thinner, but it immediately returns for “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” and completely recaptures listeners with incendiary guitar performances before Card gets let off his leash to do a drum solo that Animal of The Muppets could totally appreciate at the beginning of “The Advocate”. There too, the band manages to come startlingly close to playing like Canada’s answer to The Misfits, echoed by lines like, “I keep my eyes on you/ I have an army of eyes – they tell me everything.”
Of course, later on the side, Personality Crisis does falter a bit as “Double Take” suffers from flatter production values and EQ as well as vocals which veer between unintelligible and just feeling bored, but the wobbling bass line and powerful drums of “People In Glass” redeems the running at the close of the side. Again, picking out any of the finer points of the vocal performance (like the lyrics) is impossible, but the song gets by and can even win listeners on the strength of the overall impression that it leaves.
…And while some critics could claim that the B-side of Creatures For Awhile features little more than just more of the same kind of songs which appeared on the album’s A-side, the B-side feels as though it plays better, somehow. For example, as soon as stylus touches down and almost tribal drumming opens “The Look,” listeners will be able to feel their faces start to contort into a scowl – but they’ll be absolutely amazed when Funk lets loose a fantastic, totally unrestrained howl which hits well-higher than his established vocal register. It is in that moment where things get real; suddenly, the sound of Personality Crisis seems to ring far tighter than it did anywhere on the A-side of the album, and the result is fantastic. That howl is spectacular and, as the guitars imply fury and the bass dances around the drums, listeners will find they’ve been hooked better and deeper than they were on the A-side too.
Immediately after “The Look” sets ‘that tone,’ Personality Crisis fumbles it a little with the album’s title track (which features entirely too much epic posturing – like heavy-handed, rhythmic guitar riffs and complimentary crashing cymbals), but “Scavenger” recovers the loss well with a very by-the-book, “no heroes” performance which leads into the fierce and torrential “Wild Game”. While some critics could easily claim that “Wild Game” simply phones in all the punk cliches it can for an easy please, the truth is that the speedy guitar solo, unhinged rhythm and furious vocal just don’t quite hit the same way anywhere else on Creatures For Awhile – it leaves a perfectly base taste in its wake, and really reinvigorates listeners. After that, “Name Dropper” takes another shot at sounding similar to The Misfits (and succeeds), and then the side closes out with another “epic” in the form of “Tyrants”.
As was exactly the case earlier on the side, “Tyrants” finds Mitch Funk testing out a sort of croon-y tone similar to that of Glenn Danzig – which unfortunately lives or dies depending on whether or not an individual listener thinks the world needs more than one Glenn Danzig. Even with that said though, the cut doesn’t totally derail Creatures For Awhile, nor does it leave a taste that anyone doesn’t know earlier cuts can’t overpower on repeated listens. There’s no doubt that “Tyrants” is an imperfect close for Creatures For Awhile, but it doesn’t overshadow the good cuts on the album or render it a “one and done” kind of listen.
…And that’s that – so ended the recorded output of Personality Crisis, for the most part. As stated before, the album has never completely vanished thanks to several reissues over the years, but has never exactly been given its proper due as well. The chance for that emerges again now that Porterhouse has reissued the album on glorious vinyl. Between the format and the excellent mastering job applied here, this is most definitely the way to hear this Creatures For Awhile – a great, criminally over-looked, album. [Bill Adams]
The new, craft pressing of 250 copies of the Creatures For Awhile LP is out now. Buy it here, directly from Porterhouse Records.