As a young Redwall fan, I was hyped (as was said) when I heard this was coming out. It was clear that Redwall had run its course – perhaps the kindest thing to do would be for Brian Jacques to put a bullet through the skull of his decrepit and aging series and start out of with something fresh.
The first part was good, and seems to deliver the promise of Jacques reinvigorated. It trowels on the melodrama a bit thick, but it’s fast-paced and doesn’t have 30-page descriptions of food, so score one for the good guys.
It’s a 17th-century yarn about a boy and his dog who stow away on a ship – the ship that becomes the legendary Flying Dutchman, cursed to sail the seas eternally after its captain curses God. Ned and his dog escape, however, and use their gift of immortality for prosocial ends, setting out to do good deeds.
You should probably put the book down now, because all the good stuff is used up in the prologue. Brian Jacques immediately turns his premise into an excretable Hardy Boys adventure mystery. Basically, Ned and his dog end up in a turn of the century English village that is about to be demolished by some stereotypical rich candy-ass, and with the aid of some plucky village youngsters they must discover the secret behind…something. This was the part where I basically stopped caring. The transition from an awesome high-seas adventure to a cosy little Fantastic Five mystery jaunt was so underwhelming and disappointing that it caused me to not care.
All of Brian Jacques familiar Redwallisms emerge here too. There’s stupid villains (here, schoolyard bullies) who are somehow the terror of the village despite the fact that they can’t find their ass with both hands, the brave and principled heroes who do nothing wrong and are consequently as interesting to read about as the items on Brian Jacques’ grocery list, there’s the inevitable scene where the main character faces the villain, looks him in the eyes, and the villain is forced to look away because the intensity of his stare, the long and pointless descriptions of food…do I have to go on? This crap is in a score of Redwall books.
It’s not that the story is bad so much as that he set us up to expect so much more. Why couldn’t the entire damn book be like the first part? The Redwall books were always like this. A few amazing scenes, and the rest of the book might as well have been written by a different person.
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This album caused Powerman 5000 to become very big, very fast. It went platinum – something the band would never repeat, and (on the evidence of their previous album) should never have been possible at all.
In 1999, many things suddenly went in their favor. They were signed to a major label, and now had the muscle to swing Sylvia Massey and Ulrich Wild as producers. Lead single “When Worlds Collide” was added to heavy rotation on MTV, and immediately caught on as a ready-made WWE walk-on music. And by 1999, industrial metal was bigger than it would ever be again, powered by mainstream crossover smashes like Orgy’s cover of “Blue Monday.”
Spider One abandoned the rapping and funk-rock riffs of their first album for a sleeker, catchier, more mainstream sound. The guitars are loaded with effects, and although Spider’s barked vocals are the central point, the guitar work is pretty ambitious and fascinating. This is one of those records where it’s not always easy to distinguish the riffs from the loops and the electronics.
Classic songs abound. “Supernova Goes Pop” brings the party with heavy riffs and Spider’s sinewy, slithery vocals (it has personal significance for me, as it’s the first song I learned to play). “Are you the future…or are you the past?” The title track is incoherent, out of control, and fun. “When Worlds Collide” is still the album’s best song. It’s short, it’s catchy, and it’s loaded with energy, making it suitable for all of the 5 million “XXXtreme” sports games it has appeared in.
“The Son of X-51” is driving and propellant. Rob Zombie gets a guest spot on the explosive “Blast Off to Nowhere.” The album ends with a cover of a Cars song, further cementing them as a rock band. The only clear link Powerman 5000 has to hip hop at this point is the presence of “skit” tracks.
This album really kicks ass. Even at their biggest, Powerman 5000 was behind Rob Zombie and Static-X, but not too far behind. They could have built on this, but instead the band imploded soon after. That’s the thing about supernovas: they’re bright and pretty, but they mark the death of a star.
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Weird, but it works. A lot of their later stuff is weird and doesn’t work, so small victories, right? Powerman 5000 isn’t a band so much as singer/frontman Spider One (who is Rob Zombie’s brother) writing music with whoever happens to walk through the studio door. The band has an ex-member list as long as a monkey’s arm, and frequently changes styles. Across the years, they’ve been an indie hip-hop outfit, a rap-rock band, a crazy glittery Babylon Zoo-esque performance act, a pop punk group, and then a weird amalgamation of all those things.
This is the rap-rock incarnation of Powerman 5000. Noisy, edgy Limp Bizkit sounding stuff sold by a vocalist who drawls as much as he raps and has an obsession with comics, B movies, and martial arts films. The guitar work is visceral and sloppy, heavy on the effects, and there are even some solos (which were hard to come by in the mid 90s).
The CD functions more like a sonic house of horrors than a set of cohesive songs. “Neckbone” and “Organizized” are pretty fun, with Spider just yawping all over the place and letting out throat-ripping screams. “Standing 8” has vague implications of radio-friendliness, sounding like a Red Hot Chili Peppers song at times. Production is pretty raw. It’s listenable. I could do without the overly roomy snare.
Do I like this? Maybe the only way I can answer is to say that I don’t hate it enough to turn it off. There are listenable moments, and the whole thing is just too much of an experience to easily forget. Skip the bullshit joke song at the end.
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