Sunday, April 03, 2016
Cruelly reduced to a punch line by an SNL skit, here is a band that has received very little recognition despite a solid body of work. Striking gold in the summer of '76 with "(Don't Fear) the Reaper", Blue Oyster Cult gained extra momentum as a first rate touring act, though this good fortune would not survive the early 80's.
"Cultosaurus Erectus" catches them in a tricky period which saw their original style morphing into something much heavier. Producer Martin Birch, who had just finished Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell", helped guide them in this direction and brought a fresh approach to their quirky sound.
Sonically, this is an incredibly pristine record, with particular emphasis on the rhythm section in the mix.
The biggest payoff was bringing out guitarist Don "Buck Dharma" Roeser's inner gunslinger in the studio. One of the most underrated players in rock, he has plenty of room to shred throughout. "Black Blade" opens strong and hits hard with a twisted lyric by science fiction writer Michael Moorcock. (Tell me that you wouldn't dream up a demon-possessed, blood thirsty sword to take out everyone that made fun of your last name)
Massive walls of guitars blast out a huge riff in the bizarre, multi part "Monsters", which features seriously weird excursions into acid jazz. This track crystallizes all of the elements that made these guys great, yet doomed them in the accessibility sweepstakes. Stand out tune that must be heard to be believed.
Eccentricities in arrangement and lyrical themes are part of BOC's charm.
Songs involving strange phenomena ("Unknown Tongue") mix with shaggy dog tales ("The Marshall Plan") about a kid whose girl ditches him at a concert to chase the band. He exacts revenge by becoming a rock 'n' roll guitar god, whose blistering lead work supports inside jokes flying like beer bottles at a dive bar near closing time. Definite highlight.
Has anyone ever seen Eric Bloom and Jeff Lynne together in public?
Recovering from an identity crisis on "Mirrors" that had them veering onto the same path (at times) as The Cars, this album was a return to form, worthy of repeated spins to catch what might have slipped by the first few times.