You Get Rob Zombie or you don’t. You hear his music and say, “Well, this kicks ass,” or you sneer, “This is one zombie that should’ve stayed dead.” Something I’ve always loved about his music is that it is what it is – Heavy music, a raspy voice, horror movie refernces, and freak show lyrics. He exists to freak you out and keep you dancing. It doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to rock.
This quality does not carry over to his movies. When I watch a Rob Zombie film I feel like there might be something else going on. There never is. It seems like he was on the track to something with depth but couldn’t quite find it. So he makes up for it with trash. Setting out to make trash is cool. There are plenty trashy flicks I love. But when there is clearly potential for something more I get distracted by the missed opportunity.
Mr. Zombie has two recent releases that serve as perfect examples of this. The Lords of Salem is a twisted Occult weirdfest with a few truly unsettling images, effective atmosphere, striking cinematography, and not much else. It would be a scary film if Zombie either delved further into the themes he presents, or pushed the super weird stuff closer to the climax. In a lot of ways it’s his best film. Too bad that isn’t saying a whole lot.
The other release is his most recent album Venemous Rat Regeneration Vendor. The title itself proves that his music doesn’t have to make sense. It sounds cool. The twelve tracks that follow are fast, heavy, silly, and fun as hell. It’s light on some of the industrial elements, instead going for more hard driving, toe-tapping heavy metal. Saying a song called Teenage Noseratu Pussy can get your toes tapping sounds weird, but it’s true.
Some stand out tracks would be Teenage Nosferatu Pussy, Revelation Revolution (a song which features the lyrics that became this review’s title), Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga (that one sounds better than it reads), a pretty cool cover of We’re An American Band, Lucifer Rising, and Trade in Your Gun For a Coffin (probably the closest I’ve ever witnessed Rob get to something political).
What all of these songs, and all of Rob’s best songs, have in common are their escapist simplicity. Music that’s about something, or with a message, is great, but sometimes you need a simple rock and roll jam to help you get away for a bit.
Mr. Zombie has always come across as a 12-year-old who grew up loving monsters, sci-fi, cars, girls, and metal, never straying from that lethal dose of cool. It’s what makes his work so compelling. You can indulge in something stupid and be fine with it because it kicks ass.
I remeber the first time I heard Mars Needs Women. It was the perfect scenario. He and Alice Cooper were doing a big Halloween show in my hometown. That was enough to bring tears to my eyes. Seeing Alice Cooper kill and maim on stage was a little boy’s dream come true. Then watching a full grown little boy in zombie makeup running around a stage displaying, fire, lights, and dancing robots, was energizing. When he started chanting, “Mars Needs Women. Angry Red Women,” I cracked up. This was a guy living the dream. He made a catchy as hell rock tune out of a forgotten b-movie that sturck him as cool. It made me happy to be weird.
That’s why you either get zombie or you don’t. There are no pretensions. It’s big and dumb just for the sake of being big and dumb. And while Venemous Rat Regeneration Vendor may not be Zombie’s biggest and dumbest album, it still makes me happy to be weird.