Review Summary: The result of The Hulkster wrapping his 24 inch pythons around the music industry: Comedic Genius.
Inspiration, whether guided or deplorable, will strike from myriad sources. Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea can certainly be described as an inspired man. You don’t get to be a national icon without seizing the fruits of inspiration on the heels of reckless abandon. It seems Hulk has often been inspired easily, and his decision making process, while often unquestionably horrid; (Mr. Nanny, No Holds Barred, VH1 Reality Show) almost always yields phenomenal results, ironically enjoyed or not. The apex of Hogan’s work from an ironic comedic standpoint can be found on his 1995 rock/rap opus “Hulk Rules” where the Hulkster wraps his 24 inch pythons around the world of music, paving the way for one of the greatest pieces of unintentional comedy in history. On his way to bringing the music industry to its knees and leaving his bass guitar trembling in nerve shattering fear, all while rapping, rocking, and delivering poignant ballads (actual quote from the liner notes), Hogan’s sudden inspiration to collaborate on this opus with fellow wrestling icon Jimmy “the Mouth of the South” Heart is ultimately a gift from the Gods when taken for what it was not intended to be; earth shattering, riveting, and entirely transcendent comedy.
The term “train wreck” gets thrown around commonly when describing the human capacity to relish tragedy, gore, and the failure to avert our eyes from all things encompassing disaster. “Hulk Rules” is as perfect an example that can be found. From a musical legitimacy perspective, it’s more nuclear holocaust than train wreck, hyperbole removed, it is probably the worst album ever recorded. The sonic elements are a hybrid of elevator synth, cowbell, faux rap, gospel background vocals, country flavors, programmed drums, power ballads that make Clay Aiken look like the second coming of Morbid Angel, and rip-offs of a rip off of the reviled genre of hair metal. However, because Hulk was seriously trying here, there is an element of comedy that is entirely unmatched. Perhaps coinciding with the human desire to embrace disaster, we are suckers for ironic enjoyment, or more astutely put, when something is epically atrocious, as long as the creator is trying to be serious about their project, we end up embracing the hell out of it. The terms “so bad its good” and “guilty pleasure” exist for a reason, and that reason is personified by this album. I have listened to the record at least one hundred times since finding it in a dollar store 10 years ago. And while my enjoyment is stereotypical and entirely pseudo-ironic, it doesn’t f*cking matter. This is one of my favorite albums of all time, with reasons to follow.
*Hulkster’s in the House*
- The album opener is not lacking of energy, despite the obvious fact it would have been panned by the worst hair metal record. “All dudes together chants” in the verses, programmed drums, and a technically non-proficient guitar solo will greet any trained ear with the subtleness of a cheese grater, yet the track is saved by Hogan’s insanely gruff vocal ownage in the chorus: “when the going gets tough, the tough get rough/Hey hey whoa oh COME ON, LETS GO!”
“We're rocking down the house/The band is playing loud/We're blowing off the roof/And we're gonna rock 'n roll.”
- This was Hogan’s “entrance” music during his WCW days, at least during the times he played himself instead of moonlighting as a faux villain for the N.W.O. It is probably the only commonly known song on the record, and is the personification of everything turgid about hair metal. Hogan’s one note bass line doesn’t detract from Jimmy Hart’s vocals, whose attempted hairspray falsetto “He’s got the stars and stripes running through his VEINNNNNNNNNNS,” is similar to a fresh fish in a maximum security prison.
“He's got the red, white, and blue running through his veins/He was born and raised in the U.S. of A/He's government inspected, he's U.S. grade/If you mess with the flag it's like a slap in his face.”
- Hogan’s first solo performance has to be heard to be truly described. This is watershed, Holy Grail type stuff. A programmed electronic cowbell coincides with a synth rap beat, colliding with gospel singers pleading with the listener to “check out the pythons baby” in the chorus while Hogan handles the verses with rap braggadocio, recalling stories of “hangin and bangin” at the beach, stealing Rick Flairs belt, and unleashing a seminal array of gruff one liners at the end. Arguably the album’s greatest moment.
Awesome Lyrics (all Hogan rapping in a gruff voice):
“What’s Up Dawwwwwwwg!” “CHECK OUT THE PUMP, CHUMP!” “TEST THE POWER!” “OOOH, CHECK OUT THAT NEW VEIN IN MY TRICEP!”
*Wrestling Boot Travelling Band*
- The Mouth of the South takes vocal ownership again, delivering ultra-nasal ramblings over a mixture of country, elevator synth pop, and Caribbean flavors. Hogan lends his one note base again, but sadly no vocals. A stunning tale of leaving your woman behind because real men can’t be contained, this autobiographical quasi ballad makes up for its false sensitivity with undeniable catchiness.
“I met a girl on the beach yesterday/And she looked a lot like you/She heard the band play late last night/And she thought the bass player was cute.”
*Bad to the Bone*
- Another hair metal-ish entry that sounds similar to L.A. Guns taking a massive dump and recording the fallout. The Hulkster is again absent on vocals, but his Harley provides plenty of samplings.
“Head out on the highway, let the Harley rip 'n roll/Hammer down the throttle, give that baby some more/Turn up the volume 'cause we like to rock 'n roll/The girls all know that we're outta control.”
*I Want To Be a Hulkamaniac*
- If we face facts, we probably know that Hogan is not the personification of wholesome in his real life. However, his persona throughout the majority of the 80’s was the definition of virtuous. Amid a synth laden techno beat, the Hulkster sums up everything righteous about his glory day character, rapping/imploring to kids to “eat their vitamins,””say their prayers,” and stay away from drug pushers. He’s not so much imploring as demanding these virtues, if in fact a kid wants to consider them self a true Hulkamaniac. You haven’t lived until hearing this.
Awesome Lyrics (Hulk Raps):
Try to do good each and every day/Don't give up nothin' bad to say/Always go swimming with a buddy/Work real hard and always study/If you want to be real real cool/Don't be so stupid and play the fool.”
- Arguments of greatness are often impossible to solve. Magic vs Bird. The Godfather vs Goodfellas. Kobe vs Lebron. Montana vs Unitas. These arguments can never be truly solved due to their subjective nature, all we can agree on for sure is that each element is beyond the reach of most human capacity. We can now add the merits of “Hulkster’s Back” vs “Beach Patrol” to this equation. From an ironic comedic standpoint, it is probably impossible to top “Beach Patrol.” Once again the Hulkster raps his way through layers of power chords, techno pop, and cheesy synth beats. Once again he is bragging about showing off his muscles at the Beach while giving hot chicks ”mouth to mouth Recessatatiooooooooooonnnnnn.” Just when it seems Hulk’s chest beating raps and Hart’s nasal chorus additions cannot possibly be bested, we are greeted with rip off lines from “Whoop There It Is,” delivered both by the Hulkster and female gospel singers. There’s high comedy, there’s transcendent comedy, and then there is “Beach Patrol.”
Awesome Lyrics (Hulk):
“Whoop there it is, check it out, check it in/You'll be six feet deep if you touch my girlfriend/You know this homeboy can lose control/You just don't mess with the Beach Patrol!” “Hey GIRRRRRLLLLFRIENNNNNNNDD!!” “Whoop there it is, whoop there it is, whoo-whoo-whoo-whoo-whoop there it is!” “YO DUDES!”
*Hulk’s The One*
- Hulk’s ex wife Linda is on vocals on this awesomely deplorable exercise in elevator synth pop. Although Hulk doesn’t lend vocals, it is extremely clear he wrote the lyrics, as the track is a three minute ode to the awesomeness of the Hulkster, and how no woman on the face of the planet could possibly deny his advances or his sheer masculinity.
“They say your heart is made out of stone/You got me hanging by a string/My friends all tell me you're bad to the bone/Please be bad to me.”
*Hulkster in Heaven*
- The magnum opus of the record, this power ballad is the inspiration behind it. The legend says a young Hulkamaniac dying of cancer had but one wish in his final days; to witness the Hulkster wrestle at a ringside seat. When the kid succumbed to his illness and never showed, The Hulkster was so shaken and moved he immediately wrote this soaring tribute that very night, inspiring him to do an entire album. The array of elevator cheesy instruments included here cannot be accurately described, yet the final product is so deliciously awful it is impossible to turn away. This is the ultimate train wreck, and is probably the truly seminal moment of the album. Bonus points for the gospel singers in the coda.
“I used to tear my shirt, but now you've torn my heart/I knew you were a Hulkamaniac right from the very start/You were my friend/I'll see you again/When the Hulkster comes to Heaven/We'll tag up again/The world just lost another Hulkamaniac/I wish Hulk's love could bring you back again/You were my friend/I'll see you again.”
- It’s really a shame that “Hulkster in Heaven” was not the album closer. It’s tough to sit through this exercise of atrociously performed slap bass, saxophone solos, and beginner level riffing after such a life altering moment. Much like the album opener, its closer is saved by ridiculously awesome lyrics.
“When he steps into the ring he's ready for a fight/His twenty-four inch pythons are loaded up tonight/Everybody's talking trash, but he knows that talk is cheap/If you mess with the Hulkster he'll rearrange your teeth.”
Over the course of my ownership of this album, I have learned several life lessons I can take with me every day. I know enough not to mess with Hulk’s chicks. I know that if I want to be like the Hulkster and have 24 inch pythons, I had damn well better eat my vitamins, say my prayers, and by God, if I go swimming, I’m taking a buddy. The most important lesson however, resides in allowing oneself to ironically enjoy something so incredibly awful without feeling shame, and although this was not Hulk’s intention when writing the album, his ability to pull it off is a necessary addition to his legacy as a cultural icon.