Filed under: Reviews
Does anyone really need an introduction to Bill Idol? I don't think so. When it comes to Billy Idol, I like the hits, and he has had some good ones. But, face it, when some of these artists get older, they lose their edge and have difficulty repeating the successes of earlier releases. I didn't listen to -- or even know about -- 2005's Devil's Playground until recently. Yes, I have been out of touch with Billy Idol. That's why I decided I owed it to myself to check out this new album and tell you about it. I wanted to see what a mega hit maker who helped to define 80s rock was doing in 2014.
Now, I feel like a bit of a jerk for saying it, but I did not expect much from this release. I guess I see Billy Idol as an artist whose time has come. I remember seeing him on The Arsenio Hall Show at around the time his Cyber Punk album came out in 1993, and felt that his time was over at that point. The character that he was creating was cheesy and didn't impress me too much. I wasn't alone, seeing as the whole project bombed incredibly and he didn't make another album for well over a decade.
Despite this obviously prejudiced view, I fired up my computer and started listening to his latest release, Kings and Queens of the Underground. And, lo and behold, it turns out that it doesn't suck. In fact, I actually quite like it. It turns out that Billy Idol hasn't completely lost his touch. He can still make pretty good music. Yes, it sounds a tad dated at moments, and I have a number of criticisms. At the same time, he has managed to create a solid modern rock album. There aren't songs on here that will become rock anthems that rival "Rebel Yell" or "White Wedding". And I can't say this is an album that will sway a whole new generation to become Billy Idol fans. But, it is a good album and should satisfy longtime fans.
"Postercards from the Past" has a very "Rebel Yell" kind of feel, incorporating some of the same sounds that exist, including his little "owwwwww" thing he does so well.
Title song "Kings and Queens of the Underground" is a sappy homage to the past, talking about the '77 punk scene and then his own success in the 80s. The lyrics are a tad on the cheesy side. It's a song for "the fans", it would seem. But it does acknowledge that the 70s and 80s were his "golden years". It's acoustic medieval-ish sound is a tad odd at times, but what are you gonna do?
He appears to be trying to make a deep, meaningful song out of "Eyes Wide Shut" about the state of the world, combined with a love story. The lyrics just aren't that great. He is good at writing pop rock lyrics, not deep political or philosophical songs.
"Ghosts in My Guitar" is another example of deep lyrics gone wrong. His ode to a guitar that is long gone is just kind of lame from a lyrical standpoint, and is a tad down the quality ladder on this album. But, he should get an A for effort. He tried. Oh boy did he try.
"Whiskey and Pills" is a decent rock/metal/punk speedy number, again autobiographical, but sonically is probably my favourite on the album and I rather wish there was more of this. And it shows that he can, well, for lack of a better way of putting it, rawk out?
Oh, even by saying that, I believe I have dated myself. I guess the fact that I remember when Billy Idol first hit America dates me incredibly. Fortunately, I'm not as old as Idol yet. He's 58. Holy geez. He's 58. Hard to believe. According to everyone's trusted source for information, he began pursuing music in 1973. That was the year I was born, 41 years ago. The fact that he is still making music is an accomplishment in itself, let alone having a decent level of success still after all these years.
The dominant theme on this album is one of reflection and self-understanding, almost surveying the last 40 years of his life, both the highs and the lows. You couldn't get any bigger than Billy Idol in the 80s. Then he fell from grace, quickly and hard, with addiction taking over where success once thrived. This has to be difficult to experience. The vast majority of us will never actually go through that. There is a bit of a therapeutic quality to this album as a result, almost like he made this album for himself.
But overall, really, honestly, Billy Idol has put together a solid effort here on Kings and Queens of the Underground, which is far better than I expected in the long run. Would I listen to it over and over again? Will it become a regular on my mp3 player of choice? No. At the same time, the album has taught me a lesson in writing off older artists. Well, no, I'll still be the same judgmental jerk as always, BUT, hopefully I will actually sit down and listen to these albums before I do my jerky judging.