Absolutely No Alternative

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Remember the part in This Is Spinal Tap where the narrator says: "Rock and roll is here to stay, and no one has done more staying than international recording stars Spinal Tap"? Well, the career of hapless Canadian heavy metal stalwarts Anvil had undoubtedly reached the "staying" part of their story by the release of the group's eighth studio album, 1997's Absolutely No Alternative. Then again, it also looked like Anvil charter members, vocalist/guitarist Lips Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner, had accepted, or at least resigned themselves to their lot, or else why name the album thus? So after welcoming rookie bassist Glen Gyorffy to the fold (second guitarist Ivan Hurd had joined for 1996's Plugged in Permanent, and both were still in the band a decade later), Anvil put their day jobs on hold long enough to crank out yet another perfectly decent speed metal album that not enough people would ever hear. Although, opening number, "Old School," is a tough nut to crack; apparently written on top of a particularly challenging and inventive Robb Reiner percussion exercise, it certainly sounds unique, but hardly makes for much of a head-banging ignition. That honor goes to the ensuing "Green Jesus" and additional moshing highlights like "Rubber Neck" and "Red Light," whose more predictable, yet ever-functional, linear thrashing takes no unnecessary detours before simply pushing straight up the gut. And for definitive proof that Anvil's impish sense of humor remained as immature (OK, crass) as ever, one need look no further than unapologetically sexist ("What's wrong with being sexy?," Nigel Tufnel would ask) songs like "Show Me Your Tits" and "Hair Pie." Bear in mind, though, that sometimes even lyrics as seemingly ridiculous or gratuitous as those of "Piss Test" actually reflect Lips' unconventional critical viewpoint; in this case, challenging the everyman's loss of personal freedom under the oft-times oppressive rule of law, or something like that. Not that any of that mattered of course, since, in the grand scheme of things, Absolutely No Alternative was just another competent, but culturally irrelevant effort from a band flying too far under the radar to possibly reconnect with contemporary fan bases.

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