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Billy Idol: Kings and Queens of the Underground *

Album Reviews:

Rolling Stone - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[With] the carefree 'Can't Break Me Down,' a punky pop tune with a 'bang bang bang' chorus catchier than anything Fall Out Boy have written lately."

Album Notes

Introspection never has been required from Billy Idol or even desired; he designed his stardom not to bother with such messiness as recognizable human emotions. Nevertheless, a veteran rocker with nearly four decades of experience behind him only has so many cards left to play, so it does makes sense that Idol devoted 2014 to a double-barrel blast of autobiography: a memoir naturally called Dancing with Myself paired with an album called Kings & Queens of the Underground. Confessions are bellowed throughout Kings & Queens but it never feels like they've been pushed to the forefront, not with Trevor Horn's production creating a glassy arena rock cocoon. Horn cannily cherrypicks elements from Billy's past, reaching something of an apex on "Postcards from the Past," where the rhythm of "White Wedding" is cleverly spliced with the roar of "Rebel Yell," but oddly, he also doesn't neglect such lowlights as the overloaded Cyberpunk, giving Kings & Queens a curiously cacophonous feel that doesn't necessarily jibe with Idol's soul-mining. Then again, Billy doesn't really throw himself into autobiography here, preferring to merely write from the perspective of an old punk rocker on the verge of senior citizenship. Frankly, that's enough to give Kings & Queen of the Underground character if not quite a kick. Idol may be posturing -- that's what he does for a living, after all -- but he's relaxed here, certainly more so than he was on 2005's hard-edged Devil's Playground, having fun playing with his past while trying on some new fashions. Some of the styles are undeniably tacky but, hey, bad taste is part of Idol's legacy and Kings & Queens of the Underground touches upon that garishness along with his exaggerated swagger, fondness for hooks, and an irascible snarl, and that makes it an autobiography even if it never tells a story. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine


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