The cover art for Rigor Mortis Sets In presents a grave for rock & roll with a tombstone that proclaims that it "didn't die, it just ran out of time." Ironically, the same could be said for this album: after establishing a singular voice on Smash Your Head Against the Wall and Whistle Rymes, John Entwistle's burgeoning solo career took a surprising nosedive with this misjudged collection of halfhearted covers and schlocky retro-rock originals. It's obvious from this album's tone that Entwistle wanted to make a commentary about how rock & roll had gone in the wrong direction, but doing tongue-in-cheek covers of classics was not the way to do it. In fact, the versions of songs like "Hound Dog" and "Lucille" are so lifelessly performed that it sounds like the band is merely attempting to imitate Sha Na Na instead of sending up the original tunes themselves. The biggest offender in this respect is "Mr. Bass Man," which replaces the enthusiasm of Johnny Cymbal's original version with a self-consciously campy production built on cutesy vocals guaranteed to make listeners grind their teeth. The original material on Rigor Mortis Sets In is better by comparison, but still fails to satisfy: "Roller Skate Kate" is a parody of death-dirge songs like "Teen Angel" that lacks the morbid drive of the songs it's trying to send up and "Do the Dangle" is a parody of dance-craze tunes that is too pleased with itself to attempt being genuinely witty. The best of the originals doesn't fit in with the album's theme, ironically enough: "Made in Japan" is a tight little mid-tempo pop tune featuring a witty lyric where Entwistle bemoans how few things are actually made in his home country. However, even this tune pales in comparison to the highlights of his previous solo work. Ultimately, Rigor Mortis Sets In is a professional enough affair to please Entwistle's hardcore fans, but it will mostly likely leave the casual listener cold.
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AllMusic Review by Donald A. Guarisco