Album review: BILLY IDOL – Kings & Queens Of The Underground

BILLY IDOL - Kings & Queens Of The Underground

BFI records [Release date 20.10.14]

What has Billy Idol ever done?  Well he was a very obvious ‘gobbing’ target in his Generation X 1976 – 1981 heyday, and he was unquestionably a poster boy of choice when he dominated MTV in the 1980′s with a string of hits including ‘Rebel Yell’, ‘Eyes Without A Face’, and ‘White Wedding’.

But what’s he done since?  Not a lot to most eyes and ears, but he’s actually managed to maintain a fairly regular output that has tickled the lower reaches of the top 100 around the globe, and perhaps just as importantly fuelled his mystique and ‘legend’ with his typically LA ‘bad boy’ lifestyle.  In other words, it is been a drug fuelled ride and one that it’s no small wonder he’s survived.

Now back with his first album in a decade as he fast approaches 60, he’s come up with a new set with long time guitarist collaborator Steve Stevens and with ‘tricky’ Trevor Horn installed behind the production desk and with his ex-Buggles playmate Geoff Downes in tow.

Trevor’s production faery dust has lost some of its magic over recent years but it proves to be a clever association.  While it would have been interesting to see what someone like Rick Rubin might have brought out of Idol, and while a band like Alice Cooper’s might have better suited his lip sneering image, Horn has laid a polished production trail that harks directly back to the 1980s that was dominated by Brits like Billy, Frankie and ABC, and others like U2 and Love & Money.  And it’s pairing that, if you don’t take it too seriously, works tremendously well.

In many ways an autobiographical ride, you wonder whether King & Queens Of The Underground might be Idol’s swansong.  And if it is, it’s a fitting one.   ****1/2

Review by Pete Whalley


David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 1 August 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week and an interview with “metal queen” Lee Aaron.

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