Billy Idol’s first album in eight years shows the workings of the mind of a wholly self-aware man who has been in the music industry for a long time. There are some influences from other styles of music, but ultimately Idol knows himself, his style and what he wants to portray. It is self-reflective and introspective, and while the album generally harks back to the punky sounds of his musical beginnings, both in style and content, it manages to avoid sounding dated.
The albums starts with Bitter Pill, a powerful stadium anthem that immediately grabs your attention. The first few songs are hard and fast-paced, staying to true to his punk roots, but the latter half of the album gives way to more slow tempo songs that demonstrate his vulnerability. This is before the finale Whiskey and Pills, which is a strong finish and an unapologetic salute to the vices, which he has openly stated have been the cause of some of the most negative times in his career and life, but that he does not feel the need to abandon completely.
Idol certainly still has a powerful voice and the level of control over it is perhaps demonstrative of just how long he has been developing musically in this industry. On Save Me Now his voice is bold and demanding with a sense of gravitas to it. At other times on the album, it gives way to being vulnerable and delicate, as demonstrated in Ghosts in My Guitar.
The sometimes simplistic lyrics actually help to invoke clear and relatable imagery. It allows you to go on a journey with Idol and see what he wants you to see, which is useful on an album that seems to be a lot about reminiscing and visiting the past. This is most evident in the eponymous song, Kings and Queens of the Underground, which is a slow track using flutes to create a hippy-sounding whimsy to take you through a history of the early days of Idol’s career. It feels hopeful but morose at the same time, as though he is looking back upon those times through rose-tinted glasses tinged with sadness. The repetition of the line “hmm, hmm golden years” sounds especially haunting, as though he is perhaps a little tormented by visions of the past, or maybe disillusioned with what was.
Kings and Queens of the Underground is released on 21st October 2014.
Watch the video for Can’t Break Me Down here: