Album Reviews: Devil's Playground by Billy IdolBilly Idol clearly has a sense of humor about himself, which leads to an age-old question: Does knowing that your work is impossibly dumb make it any less dumb?
Devil’s Playground mostly finds Idol playing recycler, which is actually better than when he tried to play futurist (Cyberpunk). Much of Devil’s Playground makes you wonder if Billy is putting us on, and the answer is never quite clear. "Yellin’ at the Christmas Tree" is somehow even worse than it sounds, not even succeeding at self-parody. Idol was putting his tongue in cheek long before The Darkness, but while "Scream," "Rat Race" and "Super Overdrive" all get the cock-rock attitude and big riffs right, they can’t help but feebly recall Idol classics like "Rebel Yell." Alas, it gets even worse. Old-fashioned rockers "Body Snatcher" and "Evil Eye" don’t even get the riffs and attitude right. Elsewhere, Idol rains on romance on "Romeo’s Waiting," with come-hither lines like, "You make me bleed like a Kennedy."
"Lady Do or Die" is at least something different, a silly little twangy number about tumbleweeds and train whistles. It’s one of the few arrangements that treats Idol as grown-up and allows him to explore some character in the nooks and crannies of his aged voice. On "Cherie," Idol even gets in touch with his inner Neil Diamond. Taken in context, it’s a welcome discovery.
It’s easy to defend Idol on a kitschy level; harder -- but possible -- to argue his actual importance in a historical context, mainly for sexing up our MTV and our middle school dances. But it’s damn near impossible to make a compelling case for Devil’s Playground. "Like Rudolph’s red nose, hearing this story never will get old," Idol shouts on "Yellin' at the Christmas Tree." Sorry, Billy. Wrong again.- Adam McKibbin
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