CD Review of Back from the Dead by Spinal Tap
Spinal Tap: Back from the Dead
Recommended if you like
Flight of the Conchords, the Folksmen, and GWAR
Spinal Tap:
Back from the Dead

Reviewed by Will Harris


efore writing a review for anything connected to the trio of Derek Smalls, David St. Hubbins, and Nigel Tufnel, one feels obliged to run through the multitude of possible quotes and references from "This is Spinal Tap" to see which one feels most appropriate. Does the band turn it up to eleven, or is this another pretentious, ponderous collection of religious rock psalms? Have they grown as artists, or are they still treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry? Oh, let’s just cut to the chase and ask the most obvious question: is Back from the Dead, Spinal Tap’s first album since 1992’s Break like the Wind, stupid or clever?

As has always been the case for these upstanding British rockers, the band treads a path between the two adjectives, though it must be said that, having decided to re-record several of their classic tracks, they’re definitely listing more toward the former than ever before. Those who already have the soundtrack to "This is Spinal Tap" will rightly question the need to own new, identically-arranged versions of "Stonehenge," "Hell Hole," "Big Bottom," and the like. It’s not wholly inappropriate for the Tap to make such a move, however, given that it’s the exact same thing that many of their "peers" are doing at this stage of their career. It also wouldn’t be wrong to suspect that the group is winking a bit at some of those folks by offering up a funked-up version of "Sex Farm" and a reggae-fied take on "(Listen to the) Flower People."

Fear not, fans, there are several new tracks thrown into the mix, including "Warmer than Hell" and the awesome title track, both of which sound exactly like what you’d expect to hear from a band like the Tap in 2009. But that’s the good news. Unfortunately, the three-part epic, "Jazz Oddyssey," is little more than noodling, "Celtic Blues" sounds like an outtake from the Folksmen, and the only thing funny about "Short & Sweet" is that it goes on for 6+ minutes…but as you don’t actually have to listen to it to get that joke, you may not want to waste your time.

So should you simply download "Back from the Dead" and "Warmer than Hell" from iTunes and be done with it? Not so fast. There’s one very good reason beyond the music to suggest that Back from the Dead may be worth your money: the album is packaged with a DVD which finds Smalls, St. Hubbins, and Tufnel, perfectly coiffed and decked out in their finest attire as they sit down for a new interview to discuss the various songs contained on the record. It’s perhaps not up to the standards of the pearls of wisdom the trio offered up in "This Is Spinal Tap," but it’s so good to see the guys again that you’ll enjoy it nonetheless.

As a closing note, one has to wonder why we received straight-ahead re-recordings of the classic material rather than, say, acoustic reinterpretations of the songs as are being performed by Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer on their current "Unplugged and Unwigged" tour. Perhaps Spinal Tap doesn’t approve of their venture…?.

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