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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Blue Cheer: What Doesn't Kill You

BLUE CHEER: WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU (2007)

1) Rollin' Dem Bones; 2) Piece O' The Pie; 3) Born Under A Bad Sign; 4) Gypsy Rider; 5) Young Lions In Paradise; 6) I Don't Know About You; 7) I'm Gonna Get You; 8) Maladjusted Child; 9) Just A Little Bit (Redux); 10) No Relief.

Seeing as how Dickie Peterson died in 2009, a mere two years after the release of Blue Cheer's last album, he maybe should have thought of a different title. On the other hand, it is not likely that the recording of What Doesn't Kill You could in any way be responsible for the Original Beast's demise — first, most of the sessions were held in 2005, way before Dickie developed prostate cancer, and second, it's not as if the songs were the result of any superhuman effort strong enough to cause cell deformation. Even if they do sound like they were rather painfully pooped out, pardon my French and all.

Although Peterson had retained an active network of German connections until the very end, this record was ultimately made in the States, with Duck MacDonald resuming his guitar duties and the German guy pulling out for good. The drumming was originally done by Joe Hasselvander, but then Paul Whaley returned from Germany as well to resume touring with the band, and they promptly replaced the original drum parts with Whaley's re-recorded ones, for the sake of authen­ticity (and maybe royalties as well, but I seriously doubt that the album could have sold more than a few hundred copies, or that Peterson or Whaley could have hoped otherwise).

The final result is certainly a huge improvement on Dining With The Sharks. Twelve years of relief from making new music were enough to make the band forget their one-time allegiance to the military riffage and mock-Wagnerian solos of German pop metal, not to mention the excesses of Eighties' hair metal, and advance to a sound that was closer in spirit to the original Blue Cheer — namely, that of the «sludge metal» and «stoner rock» categories. The typical Blue Cheer song is now a slow, draggy, grinding chain of distortion and fuzz, over which the lead guitar rises in waves of wah-wah terror and «woman tone» overdrive, but not loud enough to outscream the persistent roaring crunch of the rhythm.

It's a good sound, in theory and practice, capable of assigning good shape to good ideas. But since Blue Cheer have always been short on good ideas, the general result is easy to predict — just about everything on this hour-long CD sounds like one lengthy trip on a road of sludge, whether we be dealing with newly «written» compositions, more remakes of one's own oldies (ʽJust A Little Bitʼ), or a cover of Albert King's ʽBorn Under A Bad Signʼ that reduces the original's un­forgettable riff to the exact same sludgy monotonousness. On the positive side, it no longer mat­ters that the final behemoth, ʽNo Reliefʼ, with its running length of 9:30, is about twice as long as common sense should have dictated — the listener's ordeal is to endure fifty-five minutes of this stuff, who cares if some pieces of the pie are larger than others if they all taste the same?

Fans of Peterson's «the-beast-got-sensitive-soul» side might want to check out the only exception from the rule — ʽYoung Lions In Paradiseʼ is a «heavy ballad» with a strong nostalgic compo­nent, as Dickie reminisces about those who are no longer with us. It is so unusual in the context of this record and Peterson's career in general that it almost becomes touching — in fact, Dickie's vocal part is touching, and far more credible and just plain human than ʽPiece O' The Pieʼ, ʽMal­adjusted Childʼ, or any other macho / «bad boy» anthem on the album. Nothing out of the ordi­nary in terms of melody, but a fitting last goodbye to his old pals from someone who, even if he did not know that at the time, would soon be saying hello once again.

However, one song out of ten is hardly enough to make a big change in the weather, and the others do not seem to deserve even one-liner descriptions. The best I can say is that Blue Cheer never once attempted to sell out in an Aerosmith kind of way — not a single «power ballad» on any of their comeback albums, not a single attempt at wooing the MTV crowds. Detractors might say that Peterson and Co. were simply too stupid to even try that, but even if that is true, a prin­cipled fool still deserves more respect than an opportunistic wise guy. The record, naturally, gets its usual thumbs down, but it also brings down the curtain on an overall thumbs-up career, and may the Beast rest in peace — even if I am not at all sure that even Paradise could cure this par­ticular old lion's summertime blues.

Check "What Doesn't Kill You" (MP3) on Amazon
Check "What Doesn't Kill You" (MP3) on Amazon

3 comments:

  1. Maybe he knew that it soon will be over, just look at this last cover and the one of the first album - parallels? I think so. And 'Young Lions in Paradise' is a good song, no doubt.

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  2. An unfortunate end to a rather unfortunate career. Sometimes all the will in the world doesn't equal one ounce of honest inspiration. But it was an honest effort, and Blue Cheer do have their place in history. RIP.

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  3. I really liked this album when it came out, but I was very much in the target audience for it at the time, going through a massive stoner rock/metal phase. I still like the genre, but favour the more droney end of it, will have to see how this will measure up now.

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