THE MUFFS and the Groovie Ghoulies would have been a good double bill at Graceland this Friday, but the Muffs canceled last week. We might not be that much worse off, though; while the Muffs' latest album Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow holds up fairly well, their live show has become sluggish over the past few years. The band previously struck a good balance between boredom and energy, typified by the classic Kim Shattuck pose -- that eyes-rolled-backwards, "Oh, brother" look from most of the band's album covers -- combined with the bloodcurdling wail that punctuates every song on their one truly great record, Blonder and Blonder.

Now that Kim has gone from looking bored onstage to being bored onstage, the fun's gone out of their live show. But we're still left with good punk rock from the Groovie Ghoulies.

While their new album, Fun in the Dark, has the requisite gore-themed tunes like "Don't Make Me Kill You Again" and "(She's My) Vampire Girl," the true gems on the record are songs like "She Gets All the Girls" and "Carly Simon," both of which are classic tales of the rejected and confused punkrock boy that wouldn't be at all out of place on a late-'70s Ramones record.

What makes the Ghoulies' live show work is Kepi's Ritalin-poster-child stage presence: When he isn't singing, he's running circles around the mic stand, FLying around the stage like the bat out of hell that he's probably writing a song about as we speak. Aloof bassist Roach deserves credit for standing her ground and ignoring the ever-present danger of onstage collision that her hyperactive bandmate presents, and the band itself deserves credit for not slowing down for a minute.

At first glance the Ghoulies seem in imminent danger of doing their Halloween motif to death, but they've been teetering on that precipice for years, and haven't fallen in yet -- mostly because they're a good enough band to occasionally surpass their horror movie obsessions.

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