Mighty Sphincter may rank as the only band that can honestly point to the old Dark Shadows TV series as a major influence. Their album, The New Manson Family, wallows chest deep in an ecstasy of bile, sputum, severed penises, skulls with glowing eyes, hideous mutants under the bed, and way-gone nightmares that make a bad PCP trip look like a walk on the beach.
— Spin, May 1987
Now, if that doesn’t make you turn away in horror, it’ll make you raise one eyebrow like The Rock. Do you smell what Mighty Sphincter are cooking? I’m not sure what it would smell like, but I’m about to find out.
It should come as no surprise that The New Manson Family was produced by fellow Arizona native and shock rocker Alice Cooper. Mighty Sphincter’s imagery, while distinct from Cooper’s, carries with it a similar gothic edge, and with song titles like “Drop Dead”, “Blood Banquet”, and “Centerfold Murders”, well, I think you get the picture.
I really wish that you would slip into your grave,
— “Drop Dead”
Straddling the line between goth and deathrock, the Sphincter keeps it a bit gloomy but in a very electric way – there’s an edge to what they’re doing. “Rich and Dead” holds down an insistent, throbbing rhythm to set a mood, then adding frenetic guitar when the vocals kick in to make the entire thing unsettling. “Genuine Argyle” feels doom-isn until you listen closely to the lyrics and realize they’re about the raw power of “genuine argyle socks”, which might be the least doomy thing someone could sing about. They also perform a suitably edgy cover of “Helter Skelter” (♠), which makes sense given the album’s title. Sonically enjoyable, but I simply can’t look past the fact that lyrically it more or less mocks the listener. Of course, this isn’t anything unique to Mighty Sphincter, but it’s so over the top you can’t ignore it.
Actually Mighty Sphincter was started to make fun of the entire punk scene in general, I mean if you look at the lyrics of every song on the first two albums, it’s just that apparent.
— Might Sphincter guitarist Doug Clark
Mighty Sphincter has a very unfortunate tie to Seattle. The band’s bassist on The New Manson Family, Joe Albanese, was one of the five people murdered in the infamous Café Racer shooting back in 2012. It’s still surreal to me to know that a place I’d been to before, a cool cafe/bar/creative space, became the scene of such a tragic event, even more so now that I’m holding this record and looking at Joe lifting himself out of a coffin on the back cover. RIP Joe and to all the other victims, their families, and friends.
(♠) For whatever reason I always prefer covers of “Helter Skelter” to the original. Every single one I’ve ever heard.