Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Blue Oyster Cult
Spectres


Released 1977 on Columbia
Reviewed by Jaymuc, 19/02/2007ce


“History shows again and again
how nature points up the folly of men”

After four brilliant, hard-rocking albums, as well as a double live collection, Blue Oyster Cult released Spectres, which I consider to be their most consistent collection of songs and perhaps their most under-rated.
Some people find this album too slickly produced or pop-oriented. I disagree. Sure, it does have slicker production than their earlier albums and it does follow a more pop music direction. But I think in this case, it works in their favor.
It is definitely not as raw and heavy as their first few albums but it does have its share of hard rocking classics such as “Godzilla” and “R.U. Ready 2 Rock.” But most of the album does indeed ROCK, just not as heavily as on past releases.
I got this album (and Agents of Fortune) on the day of my 8th grade dance (back in 1983), so they always kind of bring me back to that time. And I have loved them ever since. And as much as Agents of Fortune gets all the glory, I happen to think this album is more consistent, song-wise. Every song on this album is catchy and most could have and should have been big hits. If they had come from some other band, they probably would have. “Searchin’ for Celine,” “Goin’ Through the Motions” (co-written by Ian Hunter) and “Celestial the Queen” are all catchy, ready-made radio gems. The only song that really got any radio attention though was the more typically-BOC “Godzilla.” Of course it deserved all the attention it got but it is a shame that this album didn’t reel off a handful of hits because this album definitely had the goods.
To me, every song on here is memorable and well-written. I think the secret to BOC’s success was the fact that all five members of the band were talented songwriters (along with a core group of outside songwriters that they co-wrote with), therefore they never fell into a one-dimensional rut like most bands do.
A lot more keyboard oriented than past albums (with a bit less of Buck Dharma’s six-string magic - he‘s always been an extremely underrated guitarist in my opinion) but they have definitely learned the art of serving the song. And they prove they are much more than just a simple, bludgeoning heavy metal outfit. Of course, they were always much more than that anyhow. Known as the “thinking man’s” heavy metal band, their lyrics always reflected a strong literary bent (with former rock critics Sandy Pearlman and Richard Meltzer supplying a lot of the lyrics in their early days). And they show they haven’t forgotten that aspect of their songwriting on Spectres. “I Love the Night” is a strangely romantic, yet slightly spooky tale of Dracula (although it could just as easily be interpreted as a simple love ballad). Poetic lyrics and a heartfelt vocal from Dharma, with great harmonies from the rest of the band, make this one of their best. It has that sense of mystery that BOC always excelled at.
Album closer “Nosferatu” follows & ups the spooky quotient, as we travel “deep in the heart of Germany.” Only a woman can break his spell. This doomy, piano-based song ends the album on a high note. And ends, for me, their most perfectly realized collection of songs. I think they did go at bit TOO much in a slick, pop direction on their next album Mirrors (although I think it is still much better than its detractors would have you believe). They did go back to a more hard rocking approach on later albums. And thus created many more classics. But when critics talk about their four early classics, they really need to extend that number to five, as Spectres is for me, their best overall album. This is an album I have never gotten tired of over the years. It’s great from start to finish, from a band that never got the respect they should have.
Long live the Cult!

Jay Mucci


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