After touring the band’s second album, ‘Valley of the Dolls’, the band was in shambles. During the recording of their third album, Derwood Andrews decided to leave the band. And shortly thereafter, Billy asked drummer, Mark Laff, to leave…well, he fired him as he didn’t feel his style was appropriate for the new sound. Generation X was done. That third album would not be released for another 20 years.
Remaining players, Billy Idol and Tony James, decided to keep going, but now they were called Gen X. First the band needed a new manager, Tony found a guy by the name of Bill Aucoin. If you are a Kiss fan, that name should ring some bells pretty loudly. The band then got drummer Terry Chimes and they auditioned several guitarists while recording the new album.
The band’s style was no longer punk. They were going to ride the New Wave sound that was starting to sweep across England. That sound would be what carried Billy into his solo career. Speaking of solo career, Bill Aucoin wasn’t overly impressed with Gen X. His real interest was Billy Idol and what he could with him in America, but that would come just a little later down the line.
While recording the album, there was an outside influence that was hurting the band and it wasn’t a woman. It was drugs. Billy among others in the group were starting to really get in to the whole narcotics scene. And that scene was causing issues with the band.
The album was complete and the first single was released to little fanfare in October 1980. The album would come out in January 1981 and would fail to chart. With the lackluster sales and discord in the band, the band broke up…again…in February 1981.
There is one thing I found strange on the album was that guitarist, James Stevenson, is credited as a guitarist and I think that is even him on the front cover, but he never played on the album. Wait, just like Kiss would do with Ace on Creatures of the Night!!. Now, James did tour with them briefly in support of the album.
I think we should get to the music. We will start as normal with Side One…
The albums first single and first track is the now classic, “Dancing With Myself”. I say now classic because this song failed to chart upon its release and didn’t really do much. It wasn’t until Billy released it as one of his solo songs, but that is for another discussion. The song was inspired by what the band saw while on tour in Tokyo. They noticed at that dance clubs, the people were dancing more with their own reflections in the mirrored walls then they were with other people.
The song is by far the best on the album. It has always been one of my favorite songs by the band and Billy’s solo work. The song is pure New Wave dance music with a slight punk edge…classic Billy Idol solo. It is so melodic and catchy. The guitars are a little louder on this version and not as much bass, but other than that it is the song you know. A great way to start out the album.
The next song up is another well known track for the band (or at least to me) is “Untouchables”. It isn’t as raucous and catchy as “Dancing With Myself”, but is still a great song. It has a great little chorus and a cool groove as well as some nice guitar work. The song is about daydreaming about being a rock star and who hasn’t done that before. It is a great one-two punch to start the album.
“Happy People” is a slowed down song that doesn’t seem very happy to me. There is no real dance groove and the only good thing about it is that it at least shows they will change it up and won’t bang out the dance songs every time. There is this drum sound that they use that is very reminiscent of some of the things Billy does later. You will know it when you hear it. The song is about the use of anti-depressants and it helps understand why the song sounds like it does. Doesn’t make me like it any better, but I get it now.
Next up we have “Heavens Inside” which is more of the new sound. Upbeat and quite catchy. The quick tempo gets your foot tapping and head bobbing and is another fine song. Billy is really setting the stage for what is to come even though I am sure it wasn’t his intent at the time (or was it?).
The last track on side one is “Triumph” and it brings back a little more of the punk sound mixed together nicely with the dance beats. It is a great closer for what turns out to be a pretty great first half of an album.
The opening track for side two has to be one of the worst songs they have done as a band. It is slow, monotonous, strange, bizarre, insipid and almost unlistenable. Billy drones on and on. Yes, I think it is that bad. It is called “Revenge” and if the intent was to inflict pain on the listener, they succeeded. The song is basically Billy singing with a light guitar sound and a bass riff that is really all you hear.
“Stars Look Down” thankfully brings us back to something listenable. Like a lot of the other songs, it is simple but has enough to it to make it enjoyable. Not my favorite song on the album, but definitely better than the last one.
The punk sound is back in full force on the song “What Do You Want”. It reminds of the band’s earlier work and I really dig it. Great guitar riff and solo. The song is full of attitude and I would love more of this from the band.
“Poison” is a short little ditty with more of the punk attitude and a very abrupt ending. The song is reflective of Billy’s increased heroin use and the mental dangers it can bring about. An interesting topic which helps make the song more appealing. I like it short and sweet sometimes and this one is good enough to keep.
The last track is another punk rocker called “Oh Mother”. The screaming vocals and the gritty guitar add the punch to turn into a fun, yet dirty rock song. Ending a very a different second half of the album from the first half.
- Dancing With Myself – Keeper
- Untouchables – Keeper
- Happy People – Delete
- Heavens Inside – Keeper
- Triumph – Keeper
- Revenue – Delete
- Stars Look Down – Keeper (barely)
- What Do You Want – Keeper
- Poison – Keeper
- Oh Mother – Keeper
The track listing score is a 7.5 out of 10 for a score of 80%. Overall I liked this a lot more than ‘Valley of the Dolls’, but not quite as much as the debut album. Even though I liked it only slightly less. I would give it a 3.4 out of 5.0 Stars. It is a tale of two halves with the album. The first half is more danceable and a precursor to what Billy Idol was to become. The second half was more a reminder of the punk days of Generation X. The two together meld nicely for me.
I am not sure why this album gets such a bad rap, because I actually enjoyed it. Maybe I have no taste or critics don’t know shit. I am going with the second one. And no, I am not a critic, I am blogger, critics get paid and I do not. I am a fan first and foremost.
A footnote: As far as overall listening experience, I streamed the album a lot in the car and the sound isn’t as great. When I listened to it on vinyl, the sound and quality is much better and a far more enjoyable listening experience. I would recommend vinyl or even CD over streaming this one by far. My rating would have been a lot lower if I went off the streaming only. Not sure why that is, but the vinyl made a huge difference.
If you want to check out the other reviews I have done so far for the Billy Idol Series, click the links below:
Up next will be a bonus edition to the series of a Generation X Bootleg.