Jeremy Gluck (Barracudas) : my top 10 favourite albums : number 7 : Blue Oyster Cult
Tyranny and Mutation – Blue Oyster Cult
(For number 8 in Jeremy Gluck’s top 10 favourite albums please go here)
Whatever they became later, after “Don’t Fear The Reaper” rendered them stars (though I loved everything they’ve done for many the first four albums rule) the Blue Oyster Cult are as great a New York band as the Velvets, in their prime sounding like the subway from the rat’s point of view, between the tracks, under the train, unseen, unremarked, and often deceptively ugly.
My love affair with the Blue Oyster Cult has deep roots. In 1973 upon its release my brother purchased their second Columbia release, “Tyranny and Mutation”. Now, don’t get me wrong, “Raw Power” is a mighty title but, come on, “Tyranny and Mutation”? You just knew that, to quote that nameless radio op in “Apocalypse Now”, “it’s gonna be a big one”. Except that “big” doesn’t quite cover “Tyranny and Mutation” and its carpet bombing of the early Seventies senses. Here was a band, New York based, built on bass and drums courtesy of Montreal, boasting in Buck Dharma already in his youth one of the great rock guitarists and in Eric Bloom a vocalist to die for, throwing in lyrics from counterculture vulture Richard Meltzer, with quasi-mystical iconography bordering on the fascistic enough to have the Jewish Defence League up in arms and with song titles like “O.d.’d on Life Itself” and (get this) “Mistress of the Salmon Salts” all welded into a tower of power answering to a self-made brief to merge Black Sabbath and The Beach Boys. “That’s rock’n’roll”, mate, and not just here but on Mars!
Any other band, after a second album of such titanic power, would have simply broken up, pulled up sticks, headed to the country, started another kinda cult, milked and molested wealthy flower children and invested in stocks and shares sufficient to bankroll Mai Tai’s unto a decadent dotage. Not our Cult. They proceeded to make more inscrutable, brilliant albums, one of which included “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, the ultimate anti-pop hit, with its death stats, Gothic morbidity, demi-monde riffola and, even by Buck’s heroic standards, a solo worthy of inscription on an emperor’s tomb.
it was and still is the Blue Oyster Cult, whose line “It’s the nexus of the crisis and the origin of storms”, from “Astronomy”, remains my all-time fave lyric precisely because after like 36 years I have no real idea what the hell it means! “The nexus of the crisis”? Sounds good, I want me some of that crisis just so I can have its nexus! Please don’t be offended, but much as The Stooges music can be crazy, the Blue Oyster Cult’s is truly insane, with an internal dialogue, logic and lingo of all its own that, at its best, introduces you not just to music but to magic. And, that’s, yeah…you know. Now say “Wings Wetted Down” ten times fast and get outa here!