Role-playing is a big deal in rock'n'roll. Apart from the standard and by-now a bit frayed image of the rock'n'roller, leading a lifestyle that unless Dr Jekylled-Mr Hyded, usually ends up with the body of a young ex-musician at some cheesy hotel, there are masters of the game like Frank Zappa, Johnny Rotten, Ian Drury, Marilyn Manson and pretty much all the gangsta guys. But right on top there and my favourite is Rob Zombie, the modern-day Baudelaire and extoller of all things low life and downright filthy.
Zombie, whose career crashed out of the swamps with White Zombie, gas returned to where his solo output started — the rabid, demented sound and fury signifying everything blasphemous. His latest album, Hellbilly Deluxe 2 (the album title a parody of country musician Dwight Yoakam's Hillbilly Deluxe) continues the schlok-rock that started in Vol 1: bondage, torture, sex and lyrics that would make any rapper seem like a nursery teacher nominated by Tipper Gore.
The opening number, 'Jesus Frankenstein' is the dog shaking off the water. But it hardly prepares us for the Grand Guignol of 'Sick bubblegum' that romps its way and bares its thrashing tune. The chanting of "Rock motherfucker/rock the motherfucker/ rock motherfucker" has a physical force that goes beyond what's being said. You hear a bit of the Knack ('My Sharona') if you're paying attention when Zombie chomps out the lines, "Chew it up/spit it out/blow it up/ stick it out," making mums all across wonder whether the bubblegum in the song is something to chew or swallow.
'What?' ups the stakes in Zombies' I'm-a-Cro-magnon-man billboard advertising, so you can stick your charges of misogyny against him up your hybrid, energy-saving car's exhaust pipe. It's a delirious old-style ballroom roller that has a teasing conceit of leaving lines hanging in the air ("She married a monster on the very last day/and then she turned around and said/ WHAT?") In 'Mars needs women', we think we've entered one of those Jimmy Page-Robert Plant zones, until the super-stomp comes. It's here that the newcomer to 'Zombie music' will get a taste for the pantomimish world — yes, agreed, a depraved pantomimish world — where there's a show on that's part fun and part frivolous.
The album is drenched in B movie-slasher film aesthetics. The world that Zombie, a vegetarian since the late 80s and a filmmaker (his Tyranosaurus Rex is in pre-production now) has created is one that playfully mixes our taboos about sex and violence but in lurid comic book form.
Hellbilly Deluxe 2 is the album an anti-Andrew Lloyd Webber musical of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a gobfest of horror and disgust. But its main intention is to have a ball. But there's another intention perhaps in Zombie's frenetic growl of a swirl. Much, if not all, of Zombie's music is an attempt to make us join him in the celebration of being an uncultured redneck who may or may not quote Nietzsche once in a blue moon — as he did in that vicious White Zombie classic 'More human than human'.
Phatman of the opera
And Meatloaf lies on pretty much the opposite spectrum of the role-playing gig. MTV's favourite operatic fat man — his videos are certainly more luscious and corny than any of Pavarottis — is back with, well, a rock opera, if you please. Hang Cool Teddy Bear is Meatloaf's version of doing a Green Day-type American Idiot. I don't quite get what story all the songs add up. But I do get a spurt of infectious radio music.
There are plenty of guest stars lined up in the album (Brian May, Steve Vai, Jack Black), but the real hook, line and sinker is the addictive as sugar 'Los Angeloser', the real reason for me writing about this album. The tune is catchy and the words are brilliant. "Sing hallelujah/ My glass is half full/ She pours me champagne/ She drinks a Red Bull/ And she says 'darling/One thing thing you got to understand/As long as I am satisfied Well, you will always be my man," are Dylanesque, especially with the comic punch it's delivered.
But the real hero isn't Meatloaf. It's singer-songwriter-Meatloaf song-provider James Michael who's the real phantom of this opera. If you like Meatloaf's version on a loop, you'll love Michael's gritty, sardonic version of 'Los Angeloser' on www.youtube.com/watch? v=vUG0AVX4nVY. Meatloaf's a loser.