I was surprised last year to see that Powerman 5000 are still knocking out albums and, in fact, haven't stopped doing so since what I think of as their era. I'm even more surprised to see that Rob Zombie is doing the same thing because, unlike his brother, Spider One, who's primarily a musician, Zombie has become in my mind a filmmaker who used to put out music. Apparently, he's actually alternated these worlds pretty well over time and I completely missed albums like Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor and The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser.
So, here's another word salad of a title that you'd know had to come from Rob Zombie's brain, even if he'd left his name and image off the front cover. And, of course, the sound is just as recognisable, as it really is just a brain dump of all the things that make him tick, hot rods and hillbillies and burlesque dancers and carnivals and exploitation movies and all that jazz, flavoured up with samples and a host of tracks that are just distractions from the music like we're in the middle of 42nd Street with theatre signs and posters everywhere and we can't decide what to see first.
Now, if you're in the mood for an ADHD trip through Rob Zombie's brain, this will do the job, perhaps more so than earlier albums from his heyday. There are songs with that sort of heavy urgency that we remember from back in the day, The Triumph of King Freak (A Crypt of Preservation and Superstition) kicking us off in that vein, but there are oodles of tiny samples and other details, like bongos, sirens and tearing metal to continually distract us. It veers away into funk and disco and who knows however many other genres at points, just to keep us even more on the hop.
The Ballad of Sleazy Rider is a little more focused and, whenever Zombie focuses in, we always realise just how overtly Alice Cooper influenced him. It's got to the point where I actually wonder if it's Rob Zombie sounding like Alice Cooper or whether he got Alice to guest on the album. I'm thinking that's Rob singing most of the song and also Shadow of the Cemetery Man or Get Loose, but I'm not convinced that isn't actually Alice in the quieter points of Sleazy Rider.
There's some interesting music here, but it's hard to listen to this album as a set of songs. It feels as if this is a forty-two minute ride instead and the songs are just background music to the visuals that we have to imagine on our own. Some of the songs even play into that, 18th Century Cannibals, Excitable Morlocks and a One-Way Ticket on the Ghost Train (that's only one song) being a hillbilly carnival of a song that's a country hoedown and barker monologue except for a few brief bursts of energy.
It doesn't help that some of the intermediary pieces are as long as some of the songs. I really like The Satanic Rites of Blacula for instance, which is a rough edged garage rock romp, but it arrives after The Much Talked of Metamorphosis which is a soft guitar interlude only twelve seconds shorter than this full song. By this point, I'd kind of given up listening to songs and just let the album flow over me as a sort of enjoyable tie die ambient nightmare trip. Which, I guess, is probably the point.
I'd say the band are really tight, not least because I keep watching John 5 videos on YouTube so I know how amazingly versatile this guitarist is but, even in the really tight sections, it never feels like these musicians are in the same place. Everything is so produced that I could believe that this is the sort of album becoming prevalent in the COVID era where each musician is in a different country recording a different track in a different Zoom window for Zombie to piece together in the studio afterwards and immerse in samples. Frankly, I could believe that the rest of the band isn't even real and Zombie just reanimated collected dead tissue into different forms and gave it drumsticks and a bass guitar.