On March 22, 2005, Billy Idol returns to music with his first album of new material in over 12 years. Way too long in my book. While on tour prior to the album, Billy was approached by Sanctuary Records to record an album. The trick was that they wanted it in the old Billy style and sound.
As a result, Billy, Steve Stevens and producer Keith Forsey re-teamed to record the album. Yep, the gang was back together and I couldn’t be more happy. Along for the ride was Stephen McGrath on bass, Derek Sherinian on keyboards and Brian Tichy on drums. Not a bad line-up.
Of course, Steve and Billy had some songs together. However, it was only 3 songs for Steve. Billy did most of his writing with drummer Brian Tichy who had 8 writing credits on the album. Of course, Billy had to have a cover song and the album checks that bucket as well. All was now in place.
As I said, Sanctuary wanted the album to be in Billy’s old style from the 80’s. Did he succeed? Well, yes and no. It definitely sounds like Billy, but the biggest difference is that it is probably the heaviest, most pure Rock album Billy has ever done. There isn’t much danceability to it as it is straight-up hard rock with all the edge and aggression you would want in a Rock album. And I absolutely love every second of it. Bring on the heavy!!!
Now, everything on the album isn’t rock as Billy does shake things up with some different styles and genres, but the bulk of this album is old Billy amped up to 11. And so I guess it is time to get into this album in more detail.
From the opening track, “Super Overdrive”, you know that Billy is back and in full force. The opening line all set’s the tone with “In the Devil’s Playground / With an Idol mind / Straight up, ready to go / Announce the time”. He basically announces that he is back and ready to set things on fire. The song is a full of angst (a la Green Day) yet classic Billy. You get the Steve Stevens guitar sound and a nice solo as well as Billy’s snear. It starts the album out with a bang and things don’t slow down too much from here.
Like I said, it doesn’t slow down as they jump right in to “World Comin’ Down” which is another uptempo rocker about the troubles in the world and the pressures you feel as a result. It is a song that gets you moving and with Steve’s speedy guitar riffs and Brian’s heart-pounding drums you never catch your breath.
If that isn’t enough, let’s keep it going with one of the my favorite songs on the album “Rat Race”. It starts off slow, but don’t let that full you. It has an acoustic opening and Billy sounding better than ever but that is so misleading because when that chorus kicks in, all hell breaks loose. The back & forth between slow groove and head banging intensity keep the song interesting and he doesn’t let you forget he is back and means business.
Billy finally gets to a song that does sound so much like Billy of old. A more synth, dance track like a lot of his 80’s songs. The song is called “Sherri” and not to be confused with “Cherie” which is later. It isn’t a bad song, it has a great beat, but when compared to the other songs it is safe and sort of out of place. I still like it though.
Now it is time for the most bizarre song I might have ever heard him play. It is a cover of Ed Rush & George Cromarty’s 1957 song “Plastic Jesus”. It is basically religious satire and is a song about driving around with a Plastic Jesus on the dashboard of your car and how it is your little savior as well as a flask to hide the alcohol from the law (and with Magnetic Mary beside it you have the whole family). The song is in a completely different style from everything else on the record, but man it works on so many levels. I walk around the house singing this song so he must be doing something right.
Billy gets things back on track with the hit single “Scream”. It is another rocking song and has all the Billy element you have come to know and love. The attitude, the Steven’s guitar sound, the Snears and everything else under the sun. Steve rips through yet another great solo and it really is a top-notch Billy Idol song.
The album was released in March so why not throw in a Christmas song because when you think March, you think Christmas. Billy for some strange reason pens an original Christmas song, “Yellin’ at the Xmas Tree”, and decides to throw it in the middle of the album…not a bonus track or at the end…slap dab in the middle of the album. Why not!! Actually, it is a fantastic and realistic interpretation of Christmas. Dad is drunk from Jack cursing out the tree and Momma is banging Santa upstairs…every family’s Christmas I am sure.
“Romeo’s Waiting” is another song more in line with the old Billy sound and not as heavy as the others. Another great song, full of energy and danceable moments. Not a standout track, but worth keeping anyway as I did enjoy it, I am just digging the heavier stuff myself.
Thankfully, we are back to the heavy with “Body Snatcher” which is probably the heaviest damn song on the album. It has a wicked bass line, it has a dark tone to it and just seems evil. I love it!! Throw in some badass riffs by Steve and you have yourself a nasty little rock song.
“Evil Eye” keeps the darkness going with this one. More heavy bass, a nice groove and a much darker theme than most of the album which lives up to the “Devil’s Playground” album title. Steve shines on this song as well. Some really cool guitar sounds as well some cool Synthesizer sounds and effects courtesy of Derek, Another one of my favorites on the album.
Billy completely changes it up here and throws in a full on Country song for good measure. The song “Lady Do or Die” is country, plain and simple. It is Billy’s tribute to Johnny Cash and the style of the song definitely shows that. It is actually a great song, just out of place on the album.
And if that was different enough for you, how about some Neil Diamond!! Yep, the next song, “Cherie” is done in classic Neil Diamond style especially with the guitar sound. Hell, even the title could be a Neil Diamond song. And you know what, it is awesome. Out of place, no doubt, but I don’t care. Bring on Neil!!
Billy ends with a song that could be the best on the album, “Summer Running”. The song starts out as an acoustic piece with Billy singing about his running around with his woman (I think) during the Summer. At around the halfway point, the song than kicks in high gear with some heavy guitar from Steve, blasting synths from Derek, Stephen’s thumping bass and Brian’s banging drums. It then goes back to acoustic to end the song. I think it is a beautiful way to end the album. Fantastic!
- Super Overdrive – Keeper
- World Comin’ Down – Keeper
- Rat Race – Keeper
- Sherri – Keeper
- Plastic Jesus – Keeper
- Scream – Keeper
- Yellin’ At the Xmas Tree – Keeper
- Romeo’s Waiting – Keeper
- Body Snatcher – Keeper
- Evil Eye – Keeper
- Lady Do Or Die – Keeper
- Cherie – Keeper
- Summer Running – Keeper
As you can see, the track score is a perfect 13 out of 13 Songs or 100%. I like them all although some are stronger than others. And yes, the album is a little all over the board with styles, but for me it worked. It was a solid album. It rocked out at times more so than he has ever done. It checked so many boxes for me on what I want from a Billy Idol album. And to have the whole gang back together, damn it was awesome. He kept it old and yet modern sounding as well. Just a fantastic album. I am sure I will get pushback, but I loved and I give it a 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars. I have basically had this album on non-stop for the last week as I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this one. It all came flooding back when I heard the first notes on the first song.
If you want to check out the other reviews I have done so far for the Billy Idol Series, click the links below:
- Generation X – ‘Generation X’
- Generation X – ‘Valley of the Dolls’
- Gen X – ‘Kiss Me Deadly’
- Generation X – ‘The BBC Transcription Disc Series No. 126 1978’
- Billy Idol – Don’t Stop E.P.
- Billy Idol – Billy Idol
- Billy Idol – Rebel Yell
- Billy Idol – Whiplash Smile
- Billy Idol – Vital Idol
- Billy Idol – Charmed Life
- Billy Idol – Cyberpunk
- Billy Idol – “Speed” (song from the Speed Soundtrack)
- Generation X – K.M.D. Sweet Revenge
- Billy Idol – VH1 Storytellers (Live)
Up next will be Billy Idol’s ‘Happy Holidays’.