Release Year: 1982
Billy Idol is commonly referred to as a punk rocker, but after listening to his debut album it’s clear that while he may be a punker at heart, he loves all sorts of music. To be fair, it was probably the media who branded him as such, but he ran with the image with his snarling lips, bad boy attitude and extreme blonde hair. He ruled the 80’s with his catchy songs filled with killer riffs and this album shows why he’s one of the best musicians to come out of that era.
If you listen to this album expecting all the songs to sound really hard or to sound like his biggest hits, you’ll be severely disappointed. But if you leave aside all punk assumptions of Idol, you’ll find an enjoyable, diverse album. There are some punk rock influences here, but it seems that the sound of jazz, soul, pop and rockabilly take over the music. It may sound odd considering who it’s coming from, but it actually works really well. And it shows how open minded Billy is when it comes to music.
The energetic opening song “Come On Come On” sounds like an anthem of sorts since the chorus only repeats “come on!” It’s the type of song that will get you jumping out of your seat and pumping your fist in the air. It has a classic rock n roll vibe to it and though it’s a simple song, it’s catchy as hell. It also gets you pumped for the rest of the album. The next track is probably Idol’s most popular “White Wedding Part 1.” Why it’s called Part 1? There is a seldom heard part two that’s nothing but the song with added synthesizers.
Anyway, there is no doubt that the song is a classic. It starts out with a great riff that speeds down the fretboard. It continues with foreboding music, as if it’s foreshadowing a dark tale. The heavy percussion found on the track adds some suspense to the song as well. It’s interesting that people often use this song for their weddings because it’s not a happy tune about love. It’s actually pretty dark and you can hear it in Billy’s sinister vocals, especially when he sings “it’s a nice day for a white wedding.” Either way, it’s a great song that is well loved today.
One of my favorite songs is the underrated “Hot in the City.” It’s a synth based song that reminds me of a Bruce Springsteen track. The synth riff really gives it a new wave feel, but there are also traces of soul too. Beside the synth, the song also uses a lot of piano, which is not found a lot on this record. It doesn’t really have a rock sound until the bridge comes in and Steve Stevens does his amazing work on the guitar. There are lot of different sounds going on, but it all comes together to make a cohesive song.
This is actually a pretty good album, with all the songs being interesting and catchy. “Hole in the Wall” has a harder sound than the other tracks. Idol has some impressive vocals here as he inflects and stretches out his notes. “Shooting Stars” is a disjointed song that takes a while to get into. The music constantly changes tempo and can be a bit confusing. It seems to be about a young girl destroying her life with drugs. The only song (if you can call it that) that’s really baffling is the closing number “Congo Man.” It’s only 45 seconds long and consists of Idol chanting while tribal beats play in the background. It really doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album and is totally unnecessary. It’s a good thing that it was replaced by “Dancing With Myself” for the 2002 re-release.
As mentioned before, Idol really experiments with different sounds and styles on this album. Not only can influences from rock and punk be found here, but jazz, new wave, pop, and r&b are present as well. “Love Calling” has a jazz vibe with it’s creeping music and sax solo tossed in the middle. It’s actually a great song, if not a little weird. For the chorus Idol sings “If you wanna rub-a-dub rub-a-dub.” I don’t really see what that has to do with love unless he’s suggesting he and his lady friend take a bath together. The pop and r&b sound can be found on the slow track “It’s So Cruel.”
This is the slowest song on the album and the most interesting. It has a mellow pace and slow music throughout as Billy sings about a promiscuous night in town and waking up “in someone else’s sheets.” By the second verse the saxophone comes in adding to the sound. There even sounds like there may be a hint a reggae thanks to the beat of drums. Aside from “Congo Man” this song sounds like nothing else on the record. It may take a while to grow on you, especially since Billy coos for most of the song, but it’s really awesome.
Overall, the album gets 8/10. It’s a really great album from the 80’s that doesn’t get enough attention. It may not be the greatest album to come out of that time, but it’s definitely impressive. It shows that Billy is a lover of music and isn’t afraid to let his diverse influences come through in his songs. The record proves why Billy was one of the most exciting and interesting musicians of his time. If you know nothing of Idol, except for “White Wedding” give this album a listen. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.