Review Summary: An album which will challenge your masculinity...and your sanity.
Sometimes, the stupidest ideas are the ones that make you the big bucks. Take the 70’s and 80’s pop world for example. The average “band” there had been created by some two-bit producer with what he thought was a million-dollar idea, relied on some ridiculous gimmick, targeted a very specific audience and had an average shelf life of maybe a couple of years. You’ve seen it countless times – your New Kids On The Blocks, your Milli Vanillis, your Vanilla Ices, most recently your Spice Girls or your Pussycat Dolls. Usually popular for the span of one, maybe two albums, these acts quickly fade into either oblivion or targets for pop-culture sarcasm, until some genre revival suddenly makes them relevant again. Through it all, they struggle to maintain a career and some sort of relevance, usually coming out at the losing end of the battle.
The Village People are just such an act. Relying on a sexual-innuendo-riddled “costume party” gimmick, and targeted straight at the flamboyantly gay audience, the five-piece enjoyed two years at the top of the charts before becoming sitting ducks to the sarcasm of music nerd the world over – a derision which lasts to this day. But in the midst of all the high-horse sneering, the fact is there are very few of those nerds who couldn’t sing the melody or do the choreography to In The Navy
. Similarly, you’d be hard pressed to find a movie where gay-related jokes or settings did not involve at least one leather-clad biker or buff, topless fireman-helmeted stripper. Heck, Rob Halford himself has been impersonating the biker cliché for years! All of this serves as a testament to the Village People’s impact on modern-day pop-culture, even if the most cultured among us refuse to acknowledge it.
But do the group really deserve all the mocking? Well, at first glance, yes they do. The gimmick is absolutely ridiculous, and the hits, while party-friendly and cheesily fun, are horribly outdated, consisting of the sort of disco sound which soared and petered out over a five-year span. One might, however, have been inclined to spare the group some leniency, in light of the admittedly fun side present in their biggest hits. That feeling, however, would disappear the moment one laid ears on the remainder of the group’s output, as exemplified in We Want You: Very Best Of The Village People
. Quite simply, if this is the best, I don’t want to hear the worst.
Again, admittedly, the album does start off well. The group’s perennial favorites appear right off the bat, and they have all the qualities and flaws described earlier. In The Navy
is probably the best of the bunch, sounding very similar to the horridly overplayed YMCA
, except better. YMCA
itself probably takes second billing, immediately conjuring up images of its ridiculous choreography and even more ridiculous video. As for Go West
, it is much better remembered for the Pet Shop Boys cover, and rightfully so, since it is superior on every level. Still, this version of it by no means goes to waste, sharing some of the characteristics of its better-known brethren.
Unfortunately, pretty much anything that is good or fun about this record disappears with the end of Go West
. What we are left with afterwards is a veritable wasteland of interest, where very sporadic oases are barely enough to save the listener from dehydration. The chorus to Macho Man
, for example, is a delight, but ultimately made moot by the horribleness of the song as a whole. Elsewhere, Village People
– the song – tries to recapture some of the cheesy fun of In The Navy
, but comes across sounding too similar to either of them, making it little more than a rehash. Still, compared to the rest of the album, this song is actually a standout.
In fact, most of the non-pop-culture material presented here ranges from insipidly boring to epically awful. Rock bottom is hit on the interminable Sex Over The Phone
, a song which could give Milli Vanilli a run for their money, and which for some reason tries to negate the gay image the group thrived on. On the other end of the spectrum is Do You Want To Spend The Night
, which sees the band at its gayest, the lead singer purring the titular sentence with all the sensual mellifluousness of a 14-year-old bum boy. Rounding up the trio of horror is Can’t Stop The Music
, which Willy Wonka himself might consider a trifle over-sugary.
Fortunately, the remainder of the album is not as horrible, and a very – VERY!
– undemanding listener may even derive some fun from the likes of Hot Cop
. But ultimately, everything is far too bland to compensate from the moments of scarring horror suffered in previous tracks. And then, of course, there are the heavily innuendo-laced lyrics, which might make the most self-assured of men cringe. The album also includes four remixes for the group’s greatest hits, which do little other than add big dumb electronic beats and prolong the songs to insufferable lengths. Out of the four, the only one that really works is the one for Go West
, since it effectively brings it closer to the Pet Shop Boys version.
In short, then, the Village People should probably just be remembered for their two perennial party-favorites. The rest of their material is just universally poor, and not just because of its sonic elements, either. While some of the songs here might make for chuckle-worthy rock covers with the addition of fast and heavy guitars, most of them are too awful for words, and repeat listens will undoubtedly prove scarifying. As an example, it has now been over a week since I’ve last listened to the record, and I’m still
purging myself. As for this review, it was one of the most painful I ever had to crank out – yes, even more so than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Half a point added for the fun party hits, but otherwise, stay away
. Stay well away
In The Navy
Go West (Remix)