When Billy Idol and longtime guitar cohort Steve Stevens hooked back up a few
years ago for their VH-1 Storytellers segment and resulting CD, the
groundwork of possibilities was laid. Devil’s Playground is the record any
steadfast fan had hoped would follow. This is wide opened, in-your-face
throwback punk rock, the likes of which Green Day and Blink 182 owe a huge debt.
Overrun with welcomed and familiar riffs, Billy Idol version 2005 is bound to
mug every sense and gratify that recurring urge to stand in front of a bathroom
mirror, fist clenched in front of your face, snarling with a curled lip and
singing “Hey, little sister, what have you done” into a hairbrush.
“In the devil’s playground with an Idol mind, straight up, ready to go and now’s
the time,” the original Generation X and MTV icon growls to drop the curtain on
“Super Overdrive,” this mission’s opener. With Stevens’ squealing signature riff
as a reliable companion, Idol sets off down a recognizable path of high-energy
sonic rock that would have been so widely accepted in 1985. “World Comin’ Down”
is stunning, a full throttle masterpiece that sounds like vintage Gen X, ala
“Ready Steady Go” (what a refreshing alternative to today’s popular mope rock
from the throng of Linkin Park wannabes).
The first single, if such a thing still exists in this genre, is “Scream.”
Opening with a Soundgarden vengeance, Idol and Stevens really lay the wood on
this one, supplying a bridge that harkens back to “White Wedding.” Even the
prettier moments on this Playground aren’t overly supple. “Cherie” is a
frivolous sing-a-long, recalling early Neil Diamond, while “Lady Do or Die”
finds an unexpected trial in honky-tonk.
In a way, this new Idol exertion reminds me of Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising.
With such a well-marked career on the books and a legacy that would appear
unshakeable, he overachieved at a point where most might guess he wouldn’t. For
every two Van Halen reunions that shouldn’t have, if we can muster one of these
great reincarnations then the world will be a better place…at least for the
35-year-old “Cheers” generation who just can’t pitch that ¾ length Def Leppard
concert tee two decades later.