Released by: BFI Records
Release Date: Out Now!!!
Steve Stevens – lead guitar
Stephen McGrath – bass guitar, backing vocals
Billy Morrison – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Erik Eldenius – drums, percussion
Paul Trudeau – keyboards
01. Bitter Pill
02. Can’t Break Me Down
03. Save Me Now
04. One Breath Away
05. Postcards From The Past
06. Kings & Queens Of The Underground
07. Eyes Wide Shut
08. Ghosts In My Guitar
09. Nothing To Fear
10. Love And Glory
11. Whiskey And Pills
How time flies by – nine years ago Punk legend Billy Idol released his latest record “Devil’s Playground” – a fantastic piece of Rock’n’Roll. This record took my heart by storm with its dirty and rough attitude and I couldn’t wait for a follow-up, but in all those years my hopes faded away. So you can imagine how excited I was when I heard of a new Billy Idol record and finally “Kings & Queens Of The Underground” found its way into my CD-player. Was it worth the wait?
Billy Idol is an icon – there is no doubt about that. With “Rebell Yell” he created an instant classic and his effort from 2005 (“Devil’s Playground”) belongs to some of my favorite records of all time. So I was prepared for some new kick-ass Rock’n’Roll/Punk-Rock, but what I finally got here has not much in common with all the things Billy Idol is known for. Instead of Punk, Hard Rock, pure energy and rowdiness, Billy recorded an album that left me speechless … and not in a positive way. Most of these trademarks are gone and were given away to 80’s Synthie Pop/Rock music with a little darker approach and some New Wave influences. New Wave?! Really?! The first single “Can’t Break Me Down” had already slightly elements of this genre in it, but nevertheless it is a good earworm and one of the better songs on this album. But “Save Me” is the perfect example for this new direction – it reminds me much more at old Depeche Mode than anything else, because of it’s 80’s rythm and drumming. On other corners U2 come to my mind (“One Breath Away”), but not Billy Idol. Where is his identity?
I could overlook these things if the song material itself would be great, but nearly half of the songs are just average, uninspired and replaceable fillers that just pass you by and get quickly boring. There are only 4 real Rock songs on this record (the rest are more calm songs) and even those don’t offer this pure energy and rawness “Devil’s Playground” had. Maybe this is due to the production, which polished every edge Billy Idol had in the past. The focus lies on Billy’s voice and Steve Stevens’ lead guitar. Billy sounds still unique and very flexible in his voice and I really enjoy to hear him sing, but compared to his previous work he had a bit more power to offer. Same goes to Stevens on guitar – he is one of the best players on earth. Point! But he can’t show it that much on this record, because the songs don’t allow it to play virtuoso guitar solos, which is a shame. There are some pretty good moments on this album where he can shine, but don’t expect an over-the-top solo like on “World Comin’ Down” for example.
Of course you’ll also find some really good tunes on the new album, like the opener “Bitter Pill” that features a strong chorus, as well as the smooth “Love And Glory” or the title track that creates a special atmosphere, because Billy sings about his past in show business here. Furthermore the two songs “Postcards From The Past” and “Whiskey And Pills” are solid Rockers which are more typical Idol style where Billy can show that he still has the balls to kick some serious ass. But that’s it. The rest is simply disappointing and has not much in common with THE Billy Idol I love and know.
So I can make it short this time: if you are a Billy Idol fan since the beginning or you admire “Devil’s Playground” then listen first before you buy this album – you get solid performances by Billy and Steve Stevens and also a handful of good songs, but a real stand-out track or over-the-top hit is missing as well as Billy’s famous trademarks in many ways. I don’t know why he chose this path, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels so uncomfortable with “Kings & Queens Of The Underground”. But maybe lovers of typical 80’s New Wave/Pop-Rock find something they are looking for on this polished record. For a lover of hand-made Rock’n’Roll music like me, it is neither fish nor flesh.
Written by Thomas