A reminder that Twisted Sister pretty quickly hit the skids

For a brief moment in time, Twisted Sister was one of the largest and loudest voices of a generation.

As larger than life rock n roll rebels who looked like post-nuclear transgender hookers from the meanest bar on Earth, they crafted loud, anthemic hard rock songs with deceptively sophisticated lyrics about inner strength, self-belief and self-worth. Their music was a rallying cry for the hard rock youth to whom Kiss were too banal and the likes of W.A.S.P. too crass. After years slugging it out on the New York underground, they peaked with one the best heavy rock albums of the 1980s before tail-spinning into oblivion almost immediately, victims of the very forces they seemed to stand so strongly against.

Rhino’s handled TS re-releases before, particularly the bloated 30th anniversary edition of Stay Hungry, here though they stay their hand a bit and stick to the ‘hits’ with a selection of cuts from the band’s five albums. Early tracks from the first two albums are laden with an Alice-Cooper style menace and rumble, though Under the Blade‘s title track and the absolute belter ‘Tear it Loose’ are absent for some reason in favour of the weaker ‘I Am (I’m Me)’.

The Stay Hungry album predominates, of course, with no less than six of its track looming over the middle of the collection like colossi. This was Dee Snider and, collectively, Twisted Sister, at the pinnacle of their power, anthemic but meaningful heavy metal rock songs that not only stood up for the little guy but pulled him up out of his chair, pushed him to the front of the class and made him feel important. You’re different, so what? cried ‘S.M.F.’ You can’t tell me what to do! roared ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’. How dare you tell me who I am? screamed ‘Burn in Hell’, one of the best heavy metal songs of all time.

The rest of this collection is a reminder that Twisted Sister pretty quickly hit the skids. Witness ‘Come Out and Play’, where the band scrabble hopelessly to strike a balance between their Cooperesque earlier albums and Stay Hungry, ‘You Want What We Got’ and ‘Hot Love’, which just sound like bad Kiss from the same period (but worse!) and the ridiculously camp ‘Leader of the Pack’ cover. ‘The Fire Still Burns’ does actually show the band hadn’t yet fired its last shot, but it wasn’t a long way off. The previously unreleased version of ‘Born to Be Wild’ is a bloodless and hollow reading, a sad travesty from a band who once had been bellowing like thunder gods about staying true and standing stong. If anything, it shows how the life had been sucked from a strangely unique and inspirational musical powerhouse by corporate interference and over-exposure.

At least there will always be Stay Hungry.
1. What You Don’t Know
2. I’ll Never Grow Up, Now!
3. Sin After Sin
4. You Can’t Stop Rock n Roll
5. I Am (I’m Me)
6. The Kids are Back
7. I Wanna Rock
8. We’re Not Gonna Take It
9. The Price
10. S.M.F.
11. The Beast
12. Burn in Hell
13. Come Out and Play
14. Leader of the Pack
15. The Fire Still Burns
16. You Want What We Got
17. Hot Love
18. Love is For Suckers
19. Born to be Wild