I like poker. It’s a fun game. The sheer exhilaration that can be derived from gambling; it’s hard to describe, isn’t it? Now, I’m hardly an addict: I know when to cut my losses. Hell, to be honest, I never put myself in a position that’s so bad that I actually have
to cut my losses. Well, as great as poker is, do you know what its symbiotic mate is? Liquor, of course. Now, I’m not one to partake in the consumption of alcohol. For one, I’m underage. For another, I think alcohol, for the most part, tastes terrible. Still, I have to admit, in the summer heat, when old friends come to town, I do make certain exceptions. Now, this brings me to a list of bands that I like to listen to whilst gambling, drinking, etc. I could sit here and name at least…well, quite a few artists. However, one stands out above all others: the Swedish hard rockers known as The Hellacopters. Now, why do I draw such a comparison between liquor, poker, and these dudes from Sweden? Well, it’s probably due to my first experience with said band. You see, my first foray into The Hellacopters’ music was my purchase of the special edition of their fifth album, By the Grace of God
. This album was released by The Hellacopters on Liquor & Poker Records, and came with a neat little Liquor & Poker sticker (which currently resides on my used, abused, yet still loved MIM Fender Stratocaster).
Alright, well, I’ve rambled enough for my introduction, and I’m sure you, dear reader, want the meat n’ potatoes of this review. I don’t blame you, as the point of it is The Hellacopters’ latest studio release, 2005’s Rock & Roll Is Dead
. Now, I would like to make one thing quite clear: I don’t find myself agreeing with this album’s title one iota. I’m hardly going to fault the band for titling their sixth record in such a way, but they’re dead wrong. Rock isn’t dead: it’s alive and kicking; much like it’s done for, what, sixty something years now? That said, I’m still going to admit that Rock & Roll Is Dead
is one kickass album. Notably tranquil, and dare I say, experimental for The Hellacopters, I suppose you could say it represents the band’s true genesis to a form of rock more suited for the 21st century. Still, I doubt they’ll be getting much airplay any time soon; interpret that as you wish. However, the new direction hardly comes to naught, as it means that The Hellacopters are a constantly evolving beast. This is a good thing.
Rock & Roll Is Dead
contains everything there is to love about The Hellacopters: superb instrumentation, great lyrics, plenty of ass-kicking attitude; even songs about monkeys (which the band are apparently fond of). Still, as I stated before: this album is much, much softer than the band’s previous works. You know what, though? I don’t really care. It’s still great gambling and drinking music, so ‘tis all good in my book. Rock & Roll Is Dead
is less of an album that showcases The Hellacopters technicality as musicians; By the Grace of God
has already accomplished that quite handily. No, this new album proves that The Hellacopters are good songwriters. Actually, they’re damn good songwriters. The laidback feel of the album, combined with spectacular wordplay make Rock & Roll Is Dead
an amusing treat for a modern hard rock aficionado; particularly one who’s looking for something a little different. If you haven’t picked up on the jist of what I’m trying to tell you, dear reader, than I’ll spell it out in Laymen’s terms: The Hellacopters can rock harder than you without rocking hard at all. Now, while you’re head sits there trying to comprehend such a concept, let’s talk about the music.
“Before The Fall" has an extremely catchy feel to it. The Hellacopters couldn’t have done a much better job with selecting their album opener. From the fanciful opening guitar riffs, to the structured lyrical triumphs, “Before The Fall" has a great, almost Southern feel to it. It almost seems like the type of music that’ll make you picture saloons and cowboys, along with other products of the U.S.’s “Wild, Wild West." So, you could say that only further accentuates the whole “gambling" feel that can easily be derived from The Hellacopters’ music (well, for this humble reviewer, at least). Starting off with a slick little guitar lick “Everything’s On TV" is a relatively self-explanatory song: The Hellacopters rage against the machine (I could’ve shamelessly plugged Rage Against The Machine
there, but I just did it in this parenthetical statement). The TV would be said machine. It’s a great little song, whose highlight would be the wickedly sweet little guitar solo. Oh, here we are: “Monkeyboy," that wonderful song about monkeys. I really don’t know exactly why The Hellacopters like monkeys so much. Still, the lovable little primates have found their way into at least one lyric on every album The Hellacopters have released. “Monkeyboy" is just a quirky, fun little song, which I would assume is more for comedic relief than anything else.
“No Angel To Lay Me Away" is one of those rock songs with virtually unlimited “cool" factor. With strong music being overlain by fantastic vocals, it’s just one of those special songs. Just to clarify: “No Angel" is a stand-out track from Rock & Roll Is Dead
for sure. “Bring It On Home" keeps the same atmosphere going, and begins Rock & Roll Is Dead
’s ascent into hyper-space (this doesn‘t necessarily mean that it speeds up, this is just the crux of the album‘s excellence). Now, if only Han Solo and Chewbacca were around…ah, ignore my wishful thinking. “Bring It On Home" is one of the stand-out tracks from this album: from the fantastic guitar riffs, to the excellent piano work, to the musically-complimenting lyrics, you find yourself with a great package. “Leave It Alone" slows things down considerably. Mellow, emotive lyrics and (as per usual) The Hellacopters’ spot-on musicianship mesh together superbly. “Leave It Alone" is a serene, groovy little piece of work, and a stand-out track from Rock & Roll Is Dead
“Murder On My Mind" starts of more pop-like than any other track on the album thus far. This isn’t a bad thing, as the instruments still flow together in perfect harmonious sync. “Murder On My Mind" is a relatively simple song about murder (no great shocker there). “I’m In The Band" is one of those songs that could easily become a timeless rock anthem. I mean, just look at the title! The excellent, smile evoking lyrics about being in the
band, combined with the great instrumentation. I particularly like the line in which front man Nicke Royale states that he: may not look like Jagger
. Well, that’s a good thing. He probably wouldn’t make such good music if he drew any comparisons to that
old guy. I’ll await Rolling Stones
fan boys now. “Put Out The Fire" has some of the most well-written lyrics that Rock & Roll Is Dead
has to offer. Aside from that, the lovely guitar-work would have to be this track’s strong point. It’s yet another solid track to add to an impressive list.
The next song, “I Might Come See You Tonight" is one of my personal favorites. Superb lyrics (about gambling and drinking!) make this another stand-out track from Rock & Roll Is Dead
. Everything about “I Might" is simply fantastic. I can’t give any song from this album a much higher recommendation than I can give this one. “Nothing Terribly New" actually has a sound surprisingly reminiscent of The Hellacopters’ previous albums, thus lacing its title with irony. It’s a great song that’s very accessible and is an extremely enjoyable listen. “Make It Tonight" cements all of my comparisons of The Hellacopters and The Eagles
. I hesitated to bring such a conclusion to the forefront, but The Hellacopters really seem to have found that type of sound on their latest effort. This is a very good thing, and “Make It Tonight" boundlessly proves that. “Time Got No Time to Wait for Me" is as fantastic a way to end Rock & Roll Is Dead
as “Before The Fall" was to begin is. Once again, your ears are bombarded by pleasurable sounding music and great lyrics. “Time Got No Time to Wait for Me" is simply a marvelous experience, end-to-end.
Allow me to reiterate the fact that I don’t agree in any way with Rock & Roll Is Dead
’s title. However, after thoroughly examining every sonic pleasure that this album has to offer, I think I can understand The Hellacopters’ reasoning for such a name that much more. This particular brand of rock is dead. However, maybe The Hellacopters can revive it. Still, what the hell do I care? I’ll be drunk when I’ll enjoy it most anyway.