Billy Idol

Devil's Playground

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The most remarkable thing about the 12-year wait between Billy Idol's fifth album, Cyberpunk, and his sixth, Devil's Playground, isn't the enormity of the gap between records, it's that almost nobody noticed that he was gone. Such was the magnitude of Cyberpunk's failure -- it erased him from popular consciousness, shaming Billy into an ignoble exile where he barely seemed to register outside of a cameo in Adam Sandler's The Wedding Singer. Frankly, the muddled William Gibson-inspired techno-rock mess did carry a rancid stench that would take over a decade to shake, but the odd thing about Devil's Playground isn't that Billy pretends Cyberpunk doesn't exist -- frankly, any artist with sense would do that -- it's that he now pretends that he's always been a metalhead, as if his posturing in the '80s was more than an affectation. With his trusty sidekick guitarist Steve Stevens in tow, Idol cranks up the volume and never lets it slide, even on the infrequent ballads. Occasionally, they lighten things up a touch and wind up with some killer tunes -- in particular, "Sherri" is a terrific pop song, while the lively, acoustic-driven "Cherie" is a deft delight (is it a coincidence that the titles are nearly identical?). On this pair of hooky, catchy tunes named after girls, Devil's Playground points toward an interesting, fruitful direction for Idol -- one that acknowledges his veteran status without sounding aged -- that he hopefully may wind up taking next time out.

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