By 1990's aptly named Charmed Life, Billy Idol was seemingly more well-known for his excessive lifestyle than his creative zenith of a few years prior. This made his channeling of Jim Morrison on a rowdy cover of "LA Woman" even more apt. He had done so before, of course, most memorably on 1986's Whiplash Smile. But where Idol's clever amalgam of dance beats and punky guitar breaks had done its part to define the 1980s, his update of the classic Doors song was the new sound of the same old seedy, City of Angels underbelly, remixed for the cusp of a new decade. Its mirthful screams and bizzaro beat speak ("She drinks my wine spo-dee-o-dee") also marked one of Charmed Life's few memorable moments. "Cradle of Love" was another obvious high point; together with its saucy video the clattering, histrionic single was largely responsible for the LP's platinum status. But Steve Stevens had departed prior to Charmed, taking his pyrotechnic guitar with him, and his absence is certainly felt. The album wallows in mood pieces like the greaser-tinged "Endless Sleep" or the confessional "Prodigal Blues." While the latter cut does feature a surging melody and some great synth textures, its guitar blasts don't ring with the same fervor. Likewise, the fiery soloing of "Right Way" doesn't mesh as well with Idol's vocal or the synthetic-sounding backing track -- the whole thing is like the classic pieces of a Idol song, disassembled. Charmed Life probably will offer the sneering rocker's true fans some teeth-sinkable material. But it's impossible not to notice its inconsistencies.
Charmed Life Review
by Johnny Loftus