Billy Idol – ‘Whiplash Smile’ – Album Review (The Billy Idol Series)

After the tour for Rebel Yell, Billy Idol continued to live like he was on tour.  The drug use was getting worse, his relationship with Perri Lister was over and even his manager, Bill Aucoin was absent due to his own drug issues.  Billy’s world was slowly spiraling out of control.  And so was his ego.

When work was started on his next album ‘Whiplash Smile’, Billy’s ego started to get in the way.  He wanted control.  He wanted to write all the songs.  He wanted to add more synthesizers, more sounds, more stuff that wasn’t Steve Stevens.  And it is noticeable in the music.

What is also noticeable, is that with everyone leaving his life, the loneliness found its way into the music.  And an album that found about as much success as its predecessor, it wasn’t not quite the Billy Idol album people wanted or critics even liked.  It was an album that would lead to the end of a relationship between musicians that really needed each other.

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During the recording of the album, Steve Stevens and keyboardist Harold Faltermeyer contributed a song to the Top Gun soundtrack…actually the Top Gun Anthem.  That success for Steve didn’t set will with Billy (of course it was the drugs talking) and by the end of the tour, Billy and Steve were done.  It would be around 12-13 years before the played together again.

Now, if you notice on the back cover the album, the sides are now 5 and 6 since we are on the third solo album for Billy and he has continued the trend of counting the actual number of sides of albums so far.  I really like that idea and sad he stopped it after this one.

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Although Billy wanted to write all the songs, reality is he wrote 5 of them by himself, there were four with co-writes by Steve and one cover song.  It isn’t their best effort, but there are still some worthwhile songs so let’s get to it.

SIDE FIVE:

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“World’s Forgotten Boy” was the opening track and although it doesn’t have the punch of an opener like “Rebel Yell”, it is still a great start to the album. The song was written by Billy and Steve and it has all the elements you love about Billy Idol.  It has the great beats, the Billy snarl and some Stevens guitar magic.

The first single of the album was a cover of William Bell’s “To Be A Lover” which was co-written by Booker T. Jones back in 1968.  Billy completely modernized the song and turned it in to a dance track.  It has some great soulful female backing vocals and fancy piano riffs and an all around fantastic track.  The song is actually quite poignant in that with his longtime girlfriend leaving him since he “forgot to be a lover” with his drug use and sexcapades with other women.  It felt like he was confessing that he screwed up.

“Soul Standing By” was the fourth single, but it was only released in Australia and New Zealand where it reached #20 on the charts.  It is another solid track, although not a classic Idol song.  It has its shining moments and the Idol moments you expect with its hooky chorus and Steve kills it again on guitar.

The third single was an acoustic guitar heavy ballad called “Sweet Sixteen” with a nice bass groove added in. It might just be the best song on the album.  A nice change of pace and gave you a softer side of Billy.  The story behind the song is based on a true story about Edward Leedskalnin who was dumped by his fiancée Agnes Scuffs the day before their wedding. To try and win her back, he built a monument complete with furniture made of coral, in Homestead, Florida called Coral Castle.  Sadly, she still didn’t want him. Oh well, it is now a little tourist attraction…although quite weird.  Edward’s nickname for Anges was “Sweet Sixteen”.

The final song on Side Five is “Man for All Seasons” another written by the dynamic duo.  Another typical Idol song with danceable beats, speedy guitar solos and all the flash and flare of the time. Not bad, but not overly special either as it is not as memorable as some of its predecessors.

SIDE SIX:

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The second single and another classic song is “Don’t Need A Gun”. The song is filled with synthesizers and over the top production.  It is part rock, part hair, part new wave and full of fun especially when Billy screams out the album title “Whiplash Smile”.  It isn’t the best song as that goes to “Sweet Sixteen”, but is is by far the most fun and exciting.  And listen to the message…don’t play with firearms!!

And here is the point where the album starts to suffer. With the exception of one remaining song, the rest of the album is really weak in my opinion. Starting with “Beyond Belief”, I was left wondering what he was doing. A slower song full of producer Keith Forsey’s special, electronica effects, but it was to no avail as it was lacking any heart or feeling.

The next track is “Fatal Charm” and I am torn with this one.  I like it one minute, I don’t the next, then I like it again.  It has some heavy bass work which is nice and a decent enough beat, but it feels like it is missing some ingredient to push it over the top and make it a classic.  It stays in the okay song realm.  It showed a lot of promise and almost delivered.

Then comes “All Summer Single” another track in the same boat as “Beyond Belief”.  Too many effects and no substance.  It is plain and dull for me and I never connected to this one.  It feels lonely like Billy was without Perri…sad.

Lastly, we get to “One Night, Once Chance” and this one has no chance.  It meanders along with no direction or purpose that I can feel.  It is disconnecting and lackluster.  Not a great way to end the album.  Not worth any more words.

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Track Listing:

  1. World’s Forgotten Boy – Keeper
  2. To Be A Lover – Keeper
  3. Soul Standing By – Keeper
  4. Sweet Sixteen – Keeper
  5. Man For All Seasons – Keeper
  6. Don’t Need a Gun – Keeper
  7. Beyond Belief – Delete
  8. Fatal Charm – Keeper/Delete (1/2 credit)
  9. All Summer Single – Delete
  10. One More, One Night – Delete

The Track score adds up to a 6.5 out 10 for a score of 65%.  When you take that and add it to the overall album score, I am leaning more to a 2.5 out 5.0 Stars as the album lacks the amount of solid songs as ‘Rebel Yell’ and is one I actually go back to rather infrequently.  For me, it is a disappointing album and now knowing about all the drug use, I can feel the lack of clarity and cohesiveness in the album. I hate Billy and Steve went out together on this note…at least they make up for it years later.

If you want to check out the other reviews I have done so far for the Billy Idol Series, click the links below:

  1. Generation X – ‘Generation X’
  2. Generation X – ‘Valley of the Dolls’
  3. Gen X – ‘Kiss Me Deadly’
  4. Generation X – ‘The BBC Transcription Disc Series No. 126 1978’
  5. Billy Idol – Don’t Stop E.P.
  6. Billy Idol – Billy Idol
  7. Billy Idol – Rebel Yell
  8. Billy Idol – Whiplash Smile
  9. Billy Idol – Vital Idol
  10. Billy Idol – Charmed Life
  11. Billy Idol – Cyberpunk
  12. Billy Idol – “Speed” (song from the Speed Soundtrack)
  13. Generation X – K.M.D. Sweet Revenge
  14. Billy Idol – VH1 Storytellers (Live)
  15. Billy Idol – Devil’s Playground
  16. Billy Idol – Happy Holidays
  17. Billy Idol – The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself
  18. Billy Idol – Kings & Queens of the Underground
  19. Billy Idol – BFI Live (#RSD 2019)
  20. Billy Idol – Revitalized
  21. Generation X – Your Generation (7″ Record Store Day Release)
  22. Billy Idol – The Albums Ranked From Worst to First

Up next will be Billy Idol’s ‘Vital Idol’.

 

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29 thoughts on “Billy Idol – ‘Whiplash Smile’ – Album Review (The Billy Idol Series)

    1. Too bad it stopped with this album. I quite enjoyed that as well.
      It is a good album, but was just lacking something for me. There are some good songs; however, the whole package felt off. I blame the drugs and the ego.

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  1. Had no idea about Side’s 5 and 6! Thats cool. When I see the the video of To Be A Lover I had checked out from Billy. But thanks to your review if I ever stumble across it on vinyl I will pick it up for sure…
    Cool writeup …

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been finding the Idol stuff I’ve listened to to be a mixed bag, so I’m a bit wary of this one.

    On an unrelated note, I’d spotted Stevens crop up on a Robert Palmer album I purchased.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would agree with the mixed bag. There are usually some great songs on each album, bu the overall packages aren’t always great.

      When was the Palmer album? Towards the end of the 80’s he was no longer in Idol’s band and doing other things.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I like “Whiplash Smile” album. Not a great album but a good album. I was a bit disappointed at first hering when it came out after “Rebel Yell”, but I like this album more now than in 1986. It’s weird because the singles here are not the best songs (except “Don’t need a gun” which is a very solid song), but to be honest I’ve never been crazy about “To be a lover” and “Sweet 16”.
    My favorite tracks here are “Soul standing by” and, believe it or or not : “Beyond belief” which is a very, very beautiful and haunting ballad ! I really don’t understand why this song never got more attention.
    I also love “World’s forgotten boy” and “One night one chance”.
    “Fatal charm” could be OK but it’s a very strange, very weird song, in fact that’s more a sort of “nervous wreck” than a song in my opinion.
    “Man for all seasons” is average and “All summer single”… well… not bad but… honestly, who can remember that song ?
    All in all, Whiplash Smile” is a good album but really not one of Idol’s best. Rebel Yell, Charmed Life and the two last album are far better !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by Nicolas. I never got into this one. Like you said it is good, not great. But man, his last two albums are just incredible. Two of my favorites along with Rebel Yell of course. Thanks for you feedback, it is always great to hear how other people view an album.

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  4. Thanks “2loud2oldmusic” ! If I could rank Billy Idol’s albums from best to worst I would say :
    1) Devil’s playground : excellent.
    2) Rebel Yell : excellent.
    3) KIngs & Queens of the underground : excellent but it’s a pity there are so many slow songs in a row at the end of this album…
    4) Charmed life : Great except “Trouble with the sweet stuff” that is too noisy and theatrical, and “License to thrill” that is a bit weird.
    5) Whiplash smile (see the comments above)
    6) The 1st album (a couple of great tracks but a lot of average / filler)
    Now there are 2 remaining albums I don’t know exactly what to think of :
    “Don’t stop” is absolutely excellent but it has only 4 tracks on it, so it’s not really an album. It would be more a transition E.P. between “Generation X” and his solo career.
    “Cyberpunk” : I hated that album when it came out. Man… how I hated it ! I only loved 3 tracks on it : Wasteland, Shock to the system and Mother Dawn. I thought all the rest was dance/techno garbage. But 10 years afterwards, when I listened to it once more, I discovered I was wrong : this album is very different from Billy’s style but there are a lot of gems, actually.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Can’t argue with any of that. I actually just ranked them 2 days ago. Here is the link to the post. check it out 2loud2oldmusic.com/2019/07/18/billy-idol-the-albums-ranked-worst-to-first-the-billy-idol-series/

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