Rock & Roll Is Dead (Liquor and Poker)
by Brian Varney
Rock & Roll Is Dead, the sixth full-length Hellacopters record, finds the band journeying further into the annals of classic rock history. In terms of appearance and sound, the band is now virtually indistinguishable from progenitors such as KISS, Foghat, and the Rolling Stones. The high-energy band that channeled the 1970s Detroit zeitgeist as seen by Sonic’s Rendezvous Band and Radio Birdman and made raging, molten punk-fuelled slabs of high-energy rock like Supershitty to the Max and Payin’ the Dues is long gone. This is probably seen as bad news by a generous portion of the band’s fanbase, particularly the action-rock types with pompadours and Rat Fink tattoos, but I’ve personally welcomed the band’s embracing of classic rock and the overwhelmingly positive impact it’s had on the band’s songwriting.
Having said that, I’m not sure the band can continue any further in this direction. For one thing, the band has now spent enough time exploring this terrain that it’s starting to repeat itself – “Everything’s on TV” is a fine song, but the chord progression is just a little too familiar for those who’ve thoroughly digested predecessors High Visibility and By the Grace of God. The band does try to stretch its wings a bit, but the results aren’t always good – the poppy “Monkeyboy” sounds like mid-’70s Bruce Springsteen, which can only be seen as a harbinger of bad things to come.
Lest it seem I’m complaining too much, I will say that the album has some of my favorite Hellacopters songs ever, with the “Gimme Shelter”-ish “No Angel to Lay Me Away” and the anthemic “Murder on My Mind” leading the pack. Of the album’s 13 tracks, only a couple fall flat, and such a percentage would normally be an endorsement. If the album in question didn’t follow back-to-back albums as strong as High Visibility and By the Grace of God, I’d probably be gushing praise at this very moment.