If you grew up in the 80’s and didn’t live under a rock in the middle of the rain forest, Billy Idol was a part of your life somehow, like him or not. Because back then, Idol was all over both radio and MTV with hit singles like “White Wedding”, “Mony Mony”, “Hot In The City”, “Rebel Yell”, “Flesh For Fantasy”, “Dancing With Myself” and “Eyes Without A Face” and looking back, if there was one rock guy that was the face of the 80’s, it must have been Billy Idol. Born William Michael Albert Broad in 1955, his first professional band was punk rockers Generation X (which also featured Tony James who formed sci-fi synth punks Sigue Sigue Sputnik in the 80’s), but left in the early 80’s to pursue a solo career. His three first albums, Billy Idol (1982), Rebel Yell (1983) and Whiplash Smile (1986) sold shitloads of copies, but Idol went on a four-year hiatus before releasing his come back album Charmed Life (1990) that sold millions because of the smash hit “Cradle Of Love”. But after that album, things became quiet around Idol and the follow up, 1993’s Cyberpunk bombed completely. It would take Billy Idol no less than 12 years to realse another album, Devil’s Playground (2005) and Happy Holidays (a useless Christmas album…) (2006), but none of the albums put Idol back on his pop-punk-rock throne and except for a couple of live performances and the reunion with guitarist Steve Stevens – who had been working with both Vince Neil (Mötley Crüe) and Mike Monroe (Hanoi Rocks) since his split from Idol in 1986 – and a part in the Adam Sandler movie “The Wedding Singer”, not much was heard from the old hell raiser. It must be stated that Stevens was back with Idol already in 2001, but it didn’t exactly help the sales much. I, however, was never a fan of Billy Idol. I might have liked the odd song or two, but for the most I always found his sound thin and plastic and for a guy with as much attitude and punk charisma, his music was always too soft, too pop and in my book, too mawkish. As a matter of fact, this guy that has to be considered somewhat an icon, has played Sweden Rock two times in the last three years and I never bothered to show up for any of them. That’s how much of a Billy Idol fan I have been. So why even bother with writing a review, or even listening to this one, you might ask? Well, see, I wasn’t going to but somebody posted a tune from this record – “Postcard From The Past” – on Facebook and I find myself really digging the track. Fact is, I think the song is bloody brilliant, a real rocker and the best thing I have heard from Idol in ages – maybe ever and this really should be a huge hit. So why not give the whole album a go then? I mean, if I could like one track that much, then maybe I could find something to enjoy here after all.
Said and done, headphones on, push play and let’s see what old Billy has provided for us this time around. The first track is called “Bitter Pill” and the way I see it, this sounds like classic Billy Idol all the way. It doesn’t really rock hard, but it is catchy with a major pop feel and despite being a non-Idol fan, I really, really dig this. Next tune, the single “Can’t Break Me Down”, is another killer. Also very poppy, but kind of dark and to me this sounds like classic Billy Idol mixed with the melodies and sound of Steve Stevens’ Atomic Playboys. Remember that album? A killer, it was. “Save Me Now” is mellow and dark, but very much a Billy melody all the way through and by now I’m starting to see a sign of a theme, a sign that will shine brighter and brighter throughout the album. I’ll get to that in a bit. The title track is a ballad – an unusual move – but it works. The song is brilliant and very autobiographic. “Ghost In My Guitar” is another ballad that really hits home with an in your face lyric that really needs no further explanation. Just listen once and you’ll get it. “Nothing To Fear” has the sound of a continuation of his old hit “Eyes Without A Face”. Normally, to rewrite your own stuff is almost sacrilege, but this really works. “Love And Glory” is a dark ballad, almost depressing, but with an awesome hook and a chorus to die for. “Whiskey And Pills” is a true hard rocker – actually the album’s only real hard rock tune – and a great way to close this album. It also contains a kick-ass metal guitar solo from Steve Stevens.
Whadda you know? Billy Idol has released one heck of an album here and to me this is a huge surprise – and a real nice one as well. I honestly didn’t think old William had it in him to make such good music anymore. The whole album is autobiographical, the lyrics are all about Idol and the life he has led and he really comes clean about everything – the sex, the drugs, the music. Of course, there’s an autobiographical memoir – “Dancing With Myself” – coming out in parallel to this album, which explains the lyrics. Nikki Sixx did the same thing with his Sixx A.M. project and the The Heroin Diaries back in 2008. I would love to write that the fact that this album really sounds like a classic Billy Idol record – only updated a bit – will not disappoint any old fans, but I have already heard a lot of mixed reactions to this album. Many really loves it, but I have heard just as many with the opposite opinion, so who knows? The fact that I – a guy who has never owned a Billy Idol record or even liked his music – really loves this album might not bode well for the old fan out there. Maybe I like this so much because it’s not a classic Billy Idol sounding album? I don’t know and I guess this is a clear case of “you have to check out for yourself”. But I think the album is great and I will definitively check him out live if I’ll ever get another chance.
Jon Wilmenius (8/10)