Wasp

REVIEW: W.A.S.P. – The Last Command (1985, 1997 reissue)

scan_20170110W.A.S.P. – The Last Command (1985, 1997 Snapper reissue)

With W.A.S.P.’s second album The Last Command, Blackie & cohorts made a slight move closer to the mainstream.  Blackie Lawless gave the producer’s chair to Spencer Proffer who worked magic with Quiet Riot in 1983.  There was also a new drummer.  W.A.S.P. said sayonara to Tony Richards and hit Japan with new guy Steve Riley, who today is best known for L.A. Guns.  Riley’s pasty-white demeanor fit right in with W.A.S.P.’s horror rock fantasy.  This foursome (also featuring guitarists Chris Holmes and Randy Piper) became what many refer to as the “classic” lineup.

Each side of the original LP was top-loaded:  “Wild Child” led off side one while “Blind in Texas” was used to ignite side two.  This was a calculated move, as none of the rest of the songs are as memorable as the two singles.  The strategy worked as this album doubled the sales of W.A.S.P.’s first, and those two singles had a lot to do with it.  “Wild Child” in particular was proof that W.A.S.P. could write songs and not just iron riffs.  With a bright incandescence, “Wild Child” found its way onto radio.  It’s an early example of what Blackie Lawless can do when he gets everything right.

As for “Blind in Texas”?  It was always more of a novelty, a chance for the crowd to yell along with Blackie (just listen to the live B-side version on the Headless Children CD).  A cute ZZ Top cameo in the music video didn’t hurt their chances on the Power Hour, and even the staunchest critic must admit this is a blast of pure fun.

Delving into the deeper cuts, “Ballcrusher” is…a quaint love song, let’s say, with a metal chug and a cutting W.A.S.P. riff.  Throw on one of those shouty W.A.S.P. choruses and you pretty much know how “Ballcrusher” goes!  Wealth is celebrated on “Fistful of Diamonds” which is the blueprint for all the generic W.A.S.P. rockers to follow. Steve Riley made his songwriting debut on “Jack Action”, a cool but forgettable nocturnal chug. On side one, however you will discover one real diamond which is the slow and ominous “Widowmaker”. This one too is a blueprint, for classic W.A.S.P. prowls like “The Headless Children”.

Side two has its own pits and valleys. As a sequel to the first album’s ballad “Sleeping (In the Fire)”, “Cries in the Night” is less successful. However it does have a strangely futuristic Iron Maiden-circa-1992 vibe, as if Steve Harris nicked this song for some of his own on Fear of the Dark.  “The Last Command” is junk; limp and hookless.  Blackie plagiarized himself and not for the last time.  When Blackie goes “Running Wild in the Streets” it sounds as if he’s stealing from Quiet Riot.  Ask Spencer Proffer, but surely the similarity between the “all the way!” section and the “I want more!” part of “Scream and Shout” is not coincidence.  The point is moot as neither song is particularly amazing.  Closing The Last Command is “Sex Drive”, a “good enough” song but only just.

W.A.S.P. have been generous with their reissues and included virtually all their related B-sides on the CDs.  “Mississippi Queen” (Mountain) is actually a decent B-side cover.   You have to wonder if, in 1985, W.A.S.P. could have had a hit with “Mississippi Queen” just as Motley Crue did with “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room”.  Then “Savage” is better than 90% of the actual album.  Why are songs like “Savage” left off albums?  Who makes the decision to release it as an obscure B-side?  The rest of the bonus tracks are all live B-sides, and all W.A.S.P. classics:  “Fuck Like a Beast”, “I Wanna Be Somebody”, “Sleeping (In the Fire)”, “Hellion” and “On Your Knees”.  Some suffer from excessive crowd noise, but it sounds like W.A.S.P. were formidable live.  Blackie should consider selling a live album made up of single B-sides like these, all in one place.

So good are the bonus tracks for The Last Command that they even alter its final score:

3/5 stars (original LP)

to

3.5/5 stars (CD reissue)

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REVIEW: W.A.S.P. – W.A.S.P. (remaster)

WASP_0001W.A.S.P. – W.A.S.P. (1997 Snapper Classics, originally 1984)

I remember having this self-titled cassette back in the 80’s, and for whatever reason the word on the street was the album was actually called Winged Assassins. I’m still not sure how that started but strangely enough W.A.S.P. later did an album called Double Live Assassins, so there must have been something to it.

This album was well overdue for a remastering. The original CD sounds tinny and weak, not at all like the way I remember it sounding originally. This CD fixes that. It also adds the bonus track “Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)” which fits right in. I guess Blackie wanted the track to open the album originally but cooler heads prevailed. Anyway, given the opportunity to do a remaster Blackie has restored that song to the beginning of the album as originally intended.  The hit single “I Wanna Be Somebody” is now the second track.

WASP_0003If you’re a W.A.S.P. fan, then you already know and love this album and you’re not going to disagree with anything I say about these classic meat n’ metal toons. If you’re not a W.A.S.P. fan yet…well, grab hold of something bolted to the ground when you push play. Blackie & his original cohorts had the pedal to the metal all the way through this disc, with the exception of “Sleeping (In The Fire)”.  That “ballad” had a powerful enough chorus to keep you going, even if the verses were too lightweight for us as kids.

But seriously though:  “L.O.V.E. Machine”… “The Flame”… “B.A.D.” (enough with the abbreviations!)… “School Days”… everything on this album kicks.  Hard, heavy, rated R and sometimes X.

But catchy!  That’s the thing, really, isn’t it?  Blackie has always said his prime influence was the Beatles.  I don’t hear it myself, but he obviously learned a lesson or two about the construction of a melody.  Blackie’s songs are memorable and melodic without once giving an inch, or sounding like anything less than heavy metal purity.  Unfortunately my feeling is that later on, Blackie’s songs all sounded the same.  On this first album, he was writing standouts and some would argue that he’s never reached these heights again.

Bonus material at the end includes the B-side “Show No Mercy” which I also have on a CD soundtrack for a movie called Dudes. Great song. Easily as good as the album. “Paint It, Black” is the only song that sucks. From the Tea Party, to Glen Tipton, Vanessa Carlton and Deep Purple, I’ve never heard a good cover of this song. W.A.S.P.’s is no different.

Packaging is awesome, loaded with cool pics, blood, and Blackie telling you how he sees things. If you’re a fan this remaster is a must. If you’re not yet, this is the logical place to start.  It’s one of the few W.A.S.P. studio albums that I would consider essential (the other being Headless Children).

4.5/5 stars