Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog) (last update 5/23/2017)

June 7, 2011

Billy Idol ~ Cyberpunk

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Style: hard rock, electronia, experimental, British
Label: Chrysalis
Year: 1993
Home: England/New York

Members: Billy Idol ~ vocals/keyboards/programming
Mark Younger-Smith ~ guitars/sitars/keyboards/programming
Robin Hancock ~ programming/keyboards

Additional: Doug Wimbish, Larry Seymour ~ bass
Tal Bergman ~ drums
Durga McBroom, Carnie Wilson, Wendy Wilson ~ b. vocals
Jamie Muhoberac ~ organ/keyboards
Robert Farago, London Jo Henwood ~ voices
David Weiss ~ percussion/saw

Guest: Timothy Leary ~ voice

There seems to be this idea that music of the future will be cold & heavily electronic, or the music of machines & cold like machines. Whenever musicians have tried to do something futurific the outcome tends to be like this such as the Smashing Pumpkin's Machina/The Machines Of God ... if it doesn't go to Vangelis route a la the Blade Runner Soundtrack. But, in reality, the groundbreaking musical movements have always been anything but sterile. Billy Idol's 80's career was a mix of hard rock with New Wave ballads sung through a punk sneer. Given his punk attitude it's almost ironic that his ballad moments were also his biggest hits. Only momentarily did his music go in any truly different directions with those songs now forgotten about in the long run. While it becomes hard to make the sneer interesting when one is closer to 40 then 20 years old. Idol was beginning to face this situation, on top of a music scene moving away from his 80's hard rock, when he decided to refashion himself as a cyber-rocker with the futurific sounding concept album Cyberpunk which includes riffing songs, electronic drums & sampled synthesized dialogue bridging the songs that makes the result more aking to a soundtrack to a sci-fi movie than a great rockin' album. The songs tend to sound under-developed & lack the spirit & energy of his earlier albums. The songs that work are those that use the electronica as a background & rely on guitar riffing but none of the them come close to "White Wedding" or "Dancing With Myself". There are some creative musical moments, particularly with the Indian themed "Shangri-La" with actual sitars. There's also a techno version of the Velvet Underground's "Heroin" which Allmusic.com calls "one of the worst covers ever". That might be debatable but as a hardcore Lou Reed fan I will say that I didn't even recognize the song, let alone all the power has been sucked out of it & sounds more like Frankie Goes To Hollywood than the streets of New York. And, the drug of choice is more like a double shot of espresso. The irony is that this is really no different than any other Idol album - there's numerous good songs but just as many unmemorable ones. Cyberpunk is not as bad as 2005's Devil's Playground, the follow-up to Cyberpunk. Though, some may say it's a toss-up. Allmusic.com gives Cyberpunk one star & Devil's Playground two but Cyberpunk is really far more creative. Though, the songs might be more complete on Devil's Playgound Cyberpunk is more memorable. Idol definetly deserves another star for the creative approach to the album which braved new waters in the music industry that are today standard approaches: it was recorded over 10 months in a home studio via a Mac computer, was the first album to include an e-mail address for the artist, while its promotion included the internet, e-mail, virtual communities & multimedia software including the first multi-media floppy disk sold with an album. Idol is the first mainstream musician to utilize such cyber approaches making the album more than just music but an idea. In the end, though, it's sadly just a case of experiment over music. A good producer or better song-writing might have been able to turn this into something great for both Idol as all the pieces are there & the template in place but it just lacks that spark to ignite it into a flame. If anything it makes you realize how thin the music Idol's career is based on. Though, on the other hand, the shallowness of the album ... though Idol's albums were never very philosophical ... might actually make this a popular album now 20 years later in the current scene of DJs & remixing past music. It's got the perfect beats & rhythms & is a new DJ mix waiting to happen. Thus, Idol's prediction of future music as being cold & electronic couldn't be more spot-on. Sadly. He was just 20 years too early.

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