Billy Idol

Rebel Yell (Chrysalis ’83) Rating: B+
This is the best album by the former singer of the punk band Generation X. With Idol sporting a carefully cultivated leather n’ spikes image and his songs capturing a catchy mix of hard rock and new wave, Rebel Yell exuded commercial potential and produced three smash hits (“Rebel Yell,” “Eyes Without a Face,” “Flesh for Fantasy”). Idol’s signature sneering vocals and lusty cries are given free rein on the classic hard driving title track, but his smoothly crooned vocals on the evocative synth-heavy ballad “Eyes Without A Face” proved that Billy could sing as well as snarl. Also far from his punk origins (aside from its briefly heavier chorus), “Flesh For Fantasy” delivered a mid-tempo dance song with good percolating riffs and grooves, while the tasty pop of “Catch My Fall” was only a minor hit that actually should’ve been much bigger (then again I’m a sucker for nice sax work). Throughout the album, streamlined guitar hooks and surprisingly savory (if decidedly dated to the ‘80s) keyboards are the norm, and Steve Stevens’ flashy guitar playing is consistently entertaining and saves Idol’s less hook-laden ventures (“Daytime Drama,” “Blue Highway,” “Crank Call”). Elsewhere, the chorus of “(Do Not) Stand in the Shadows” is kinda lame but it has another good melody and groove, while the boring ballad “The Dead Next Door” closes things on a meek, anticlimactic note. His career would soon be headed toward a free fall with the exception of the occasional hit here and there (“To Be A Lover,” “Cradle Of Love”), but the defiantly commercial if decidedly inconsistent Rebel Yell was Billy Idol’s career peak. P.S. Perhaps Idol is best served by a compilation, actually, where you can get his other essential songs such as “Dancing With Myself,” “White Wedding,” and his cover of Tommy James’ “Mony Mony” (all together now: "get laid, get f**ked!"). Either 2001's Greatest Hits or 2008's much-overlapping The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself should suffice; avoid 1985's remix-heavy Vital Idol.

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