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Monday, December 20, 2010

CD Review: Rob Zombie - Icon 2

Rob Zombie - Icon 2
2010 Universal Music/Geffen Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

First, let me get the praise out of the way. For everything I've heard in my professional circles about Rob Zombie--both good and bad--I will always respect the guy for numerous things. One, Rob and White Zombie were exactly what the doctor ordered in the early nineties when heavy metal had gone pop and the phrase "douche crew" could be slung at many bands from the upper tiers on down. Right as grunge was about to stage a hostile takeover of the American music scene, White Zombie's La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Vol. 1 had, along with Pantera, Living Colour and Alice in Chains, turned the hard rock scene on its ear. White Zombie was precisely the rump-shaking bit o' fang we needed in 1992 when corporate sales turned the decibels into dollars. "Thunder Kiss '65" has been well overplayed since it struck, but you know, it still carries a groove and it's still a dirt rock classic.

Next, you're seldom wont to find a guy with more malleability than Rob Zombie. If he's not in the studio, he's on tour. If he's not on tour, he's in the director's chair working on a horror film. If not there, he's doing voiceovers for animation or appearing on t.v. as host to hour-long documentaries. In our time, Rob Zombie has managed to become the Stephen King, Alice Cooper and Hershell Gordon Lewis wrapped into one biker-shredded facade. Granted, nothing Rob Zombie has recorded will ever be "Cold Ethel" and almost nobody can outwrite King, no disrespect to the likes of Clive Barker. Yet, for all the many quirks about his films, Rob Zombie has a flair and pastiche to his celluloid work that at least makes you pay attention and wonder what's he intends to submit you to. His Halloween films are both travesty and bravado, but damn, despite their huge flaws, they're compelling at their core. Nobody can say the guy doesn't have balls. The Devil's Rejects alone is why Rob Zombie keeps getting offers to direct feature films. I, for one, won't ever think of "Freebird" the same way again.

Finally, the man has such a professional candor I can personally testify to in my one interview with Rob. All-business, Mr. Zombie, but he knows his shit and that makes him an intriguing subject matter to converse with. In my interviews with other horror film directors, his name comes up with reverence and appreciation. He may be a commercial sensation, but Rob Zombie is a horror fan, first and foremost.

Everything laid out thus far on paper likely quantifies the word "icon." In many ways, Rob Zombie has justified himself, yet there's something annoying about an album called Icon 2 when one, there are so many others with longer standing who deserve the title more, and well, Rob Zombie appears to be well-entrenched in all of his endeavors that he's hardly going to stop or settle down. Perhaps the best is yet to come from the man, but overextension has been one of Rob Zombie's adversaries and his recent projects suffer as much as they flourish because of his hyperactiveness.

Of course, co-headlining a major tour with a true icon like Alice Cooper does much to raise one's stock, yet really, if we're speaking in terms of music, Rob Zombie needs at least a few more barnstormer platters and films to elevate him to the stature of icon. Rob Halford, icon? Indisputably. Rob Reiner, icon? You betcha. Rob Zombie, icon? Well, he's getting there and if he stays his course, then yeah, he'll likely be fitting of the title.

For Icon 2's purposes, it comes close to the holiday season with an iPod mentality for the hard copy purist. In essence, Icon 2 is The Rob Zombie Party Album because it has hit after hit after hit and just about never comes off the high tip until "The Lords of Salem" and "Let it All Bleed Out," which appear at the midpoint on the second disc of this compendium.

If anything, this singles-oriented two-disc project, is destined for future Halloween sojourns and pumping pumpkin parties. It's full of Rob's most adrenalized cuts, beginning with six tracks from White Zombie (give ya a clue which six, eh?), then it tramps through Rob's solo career, which is all electro rock bump and grind courtesy of "The Great American Nightmare," "Superbeast" and "Dragula." These, like "Meet the Creeper," "Scum of the Earth," "Demonoid Phenomenon" and "Never Gonna Stop (The Red Red Groovy)" are straight-up devildog dance numbers and from that standpoint, you can be assured Rob Zombie will be considered an inevitable icon. These tunes, along with "Feel So Numb," "Living Dead Girl" and of course, the White Zombie staples "Black Sunshine," "Thunder Kiss '65" and "More Human Than Human" will rock the iPods and stereos of the next generation or two.

However, Icon 2 does feel like a last-minute packaging with its inclusion of Educated Horses and Hellbilly Deluxe 2 tracks to give it an updated polish, because, yeahhhhhhh (one of Rob's favorite lyrical words), Rob Zombie has dished up the hits assemblage in the past. In fact, in recent memory, Rob's somehow managed to follow up most of his solo albums with an immediate remix, live album or hits package and unfortunately, for all the man's talents, there's a bit of a huckstering feeling at this point. The man knows his capital worth and so do his benefactors. That being said, do consider Rob Zombie is no longer affiliated with the label providing this compilation, even if there was an apparent axe-burying (or proviso) for them to gain access to Rob's new Roadrunner Records material.

Nevertheless, it's the fans who are expected to tolerate and even buy these things until Rob coughs up something new with his name affixed to it. At least Rob hardly makes them wait.

Rating: ****

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