Blue Oyster Cult – Spectres – Review

blueoystercult200Blue Öyster Cult

Spectres (Legacy/Sony)
by Martin Popoff

Sony have been reissuing the killer Blue Öyster Cult catalogue over a number of years, and the latest are the band’s 1978 live album, Some Enchanted Evening (which includes a friggin’ period-piece live DVD!) and the Spectres album from 1977. Spectres is, and always will be, an amazing piece of genre-defying high concept pop metal, an album of a type only five or so bands could ever dare issue, and all of them from the ’70s. The Cultsters turned the songwriting corner with 1976’s Agents of Fortune, and Spectres was of similar disorienting but peerless, classy scope. The production was a little thin, and it didn’t sell as well as Agents of Fortune (smash hit “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”), but it was perhaps an even better album. “Godzilla,” “R.U. Ready To Rock,” and “Golden Age of Leather” brought out Buck and his power chords. The first two were amusingly campy – BOC were always eye-winkers at metal – while the latter is in the band’s great tradition of bikers wrapped up in conspiracy theories. But the dark heart of the album was in the band’s imposing, literary ballads, namely “I Love the Night,” “Death Valley Nights,” and “Fireworks.” Better lyrics have never been penned: “I Love The Night” is maybe the band’s greatest song for the ages. “Nosferatu” was, like, the second best vampire song ever written, after Blue Oyster goddamn Cult’s own “Tattoo Vampire.” “Searchin’ For Celine” was Allen’s quirky morose funk contribution. “Celestial The Queen” and “Goin’ Through The Motions” were pop, and thus lightning rods for the chattering (and boozing) classes, who lamented that the album wasn’t heavier like the pre-’76 “black & white” period of the band. Lenny Kaye provides philosophically trenchant liner notes, and the vaults provide four previously unreleased bonus tracks, three studio originals, and one cover. Er, BOC as godly as they were, picked sucky covers, so bye bye, run along now.

The originals, though, are sassy and smart. “Night Flyer” is a new wavey, New Yorker of a cool song, penned by bassist Joe Bouchard and producer Murray Krugman. “Dial M For Murder” is a quick-paced but nimble rocker written by Buck, sung by an always wisecracky sounding Eric, Allen Lanier adding rare Hammond. “Please Hold” is nicely cohesive to the previous two rarities, the band well in tune with the New York music scene at the time, the Cultsters courting the current arty new wave (and not punk) scene, the pre-new wave of Lou Reed, the Dolls, and Patti Smith, and the city’s benevolent, pervasive links to the hard-working ’60s bands of their youths. Damn, so much creativity: BOC, Zeppelin, Queen, Max Webster (!): Zesty and testy flaunters of the rules, one and all!