On Halloween night, 2001, the Murder City Devils rolled back into their hometown of Seattle, WA, after another long tour. This was nothing new; in its six-year existence, the band had always used time on the road to sharpen the edge of its steely death punk knife. But things were different this time. The MCD were breaking up; the tour had been the band's last. A final, farewell All Hallows Eve gig would be recorded for posterity, and document all the blood, mud, and beer that the Murder City Devils had spilled. R.I.P. is a straight, off-the-board recording of the MCD's final concert appearance. Vocalist Spencer Moody, possessed of a voice pitched somewhere between Alice Cooper and Ian MacKaye, leads guitarists Nate Manny and Dann Gallucci, bassist Derek Fudesco, drummer Coady Willis, and fill-in keyboardist Nick Dewitt through an hour of pummeling, drunken punk rock that covers material from the band's entire career. Now, if you weren't in the back seat of the Murder City Devils' muscle car from the beginning, R.I.P. isn't for you. It's only essential for longtime fans, but that's not really a criticism, since the same can be said about any of the band's three studio LPs. The MCD put the hammer down with their 1997 self-titled debut, and didn't let off the pedal until the final, frantic notes of R.I.P. Anthems like "Rum to Whiskey" are even more tortured in a live setting. "She was the only decent thing in a good for nothing town," Moody screams over the song's scraping guitar line. Moody doesn't quit. "Do you remember your hand on the hem of her dress?" he pleads, as an organ seems to trace a chalk outline around his no-doubt prostrate frame. It's three and a half minutes that define as good as any on the album what was so special about the MCD in the first place -- they understood as well as anyone the link between the Dead Boys and Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!
R.I.P. isn't one of these chintzy "live" recordings that fade between songs and alter the sequencing of the original show. Oh no, it's the real thing, complete with Moody's drunken song introductions (falling into a rut of "this next song is called..."), booze-soaked vocal and instrumental flubs, and microphones that cut in and out. Andrea Zollo stops by for a sexed-up run through "Boom Swagger" (Zollo is now the vocalist in Fudesco and Dewitt's post-MCD outfit Pretty Girls Make Graves); she arrives midway through the 19-song set, and it's the last 100 percent coherent moment on the album. When Moody and the band finally launch into "18 Wheels," one of their best songs, the sweat, beer, and blood spilled over the last hour almost spills out of the front of the CD player. But it isn't the end. Just as most of the farewell set was sprinkled with new, unreleased material, the Murder City Devils end the show with the new song "Grace That Saves." After four final minutes of frantic, drunken hardcore, the song's parts break down into squelch as each bandmember walks off-stage. Moody is left to repeat the song's mantra over wailing feedback. "This is a love letter," he chants. "I got your note, I'm on my way." And with one final thank you and an audible drop of the microphone, Moody and the Murder City Devils slink away into the All Hallows Eve night.