CACTUS: ONE WAY... OR ANOTHER (1971)
1) Long Tall Sally; 2) Rockout, Whatever You Feel Like; 3) Rock'n'Roll Children; 4) Big Mama Boogie, Pts. 1 & 2; 5) Feel So Bad; 6) Song For Aries; 7) Hometown Bust; 8) One Way... Or Another.
If the band's first album at least had its share of dumb fun, then the second one is not even fun any more. Stiff, lumpy, humorless, and hookless, these guys make me feel that I have really underappreciated KISS for all these years. It is not a crime to set your artistic ambitions real low and just make a danceable rock'n'roll album for the sakes of partying all night long; however, it takes some true «anti-talent» to make a rock'n'roll album that would not only be completely dispensable the morning after the party, but would also cost you at least half of your party guests.
Because, honestly, no respectable party goer would ever agree to accept the fact that ʽLong Tall Sallyʼ is now to be played about three times as slow as the original — trying to retain the enthusiasm and hysteria of Little Richard, but slowing down to a veritable crawl. It's as if some nasty schoolmaster snuck into the party at the last minute and told them to go slow, under threat of expulsion — forgetting all about the other parameters because they were more difficult to formulate. It's innovative, for sure... and utterly ridiculous. As is the equally slow and stiff ʽFeel So Badʼ, which was far sexier when a post-army Elvis did it in the early Sixties.
It is not altogether clear to me who'd fall for this stuff in 1971: the best heavy metal bands were busy trying to peer into the future, whereas Cactus here clearly remain chained to the standards of 1969. The only detours from the formula are on ʽBig Mama Boogieʼ, which does try to boogie, John Lee Hooker-style (but on an acoustic guitar!) for about four minutes, without too much confidence, and then makes the plunge into true kick-ass electric boogie for about one more minute, by which time, however, we are probably way too bored to pay any attention; and then there's the never-ending ʽHometown Bustʼ, a long, dreary, overdone complaint about the ongoing drug busts (as if this could help where even Steppenwolf could do nothing). Oh, and a three-minute pastoral instrumental (ʽSong For Ariesʼ) where the guitarist experiments with echoes, Leslie cabinets, and overdubs, balancing somewhere on the edge of prettiness but never quite getting there.
Ultimately, this just sounds like a very, very, very boring record to me. If it were at least «comically bad», as in the case of KISS, if they went nuts and posed as Gods of Thunder or as Lord Protectors of Cock-and-Balls Music, you could be in it for the cheap thrills. But listening to ʽLong Tall Sallyʼ being played that way is like... well, like having to attend a ninety-minute lecture that could be summed up in thirty seconds. Maybe they're taking their cues from Led Zeppelin alright, but Led Zeppelin were never Led Bathyscaphe — they did know how to soar and zap through the atmosphere despite all the heaviness. These guys just lumber on. No fun whatsoever. A totally depressed thumbs down — and I like simple, stupid rock'n'roll music when I can get it. But this just ain't it.