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Blue Oyster Cult | Curse of the Hidden Mirror | review | rock | Lollipop

Blue Öyster Cult

Curse of the Hidden Mirror (Sanctuary)
by Martin Popoff

Heaven Forbid might contain a few gems above and beyond Curse of the Hidden Mirror, but it was a bit forced and hodge-podged, the band clutching at anything they could to stretch it to album length. But this one, man, it's cohesive and obtuse and willfully obstinate against what is expected, except for those in the know, who realize with BÖC that one can only expect the unexpected. Curse... is less metal, more Buck-poppy and ennui-bluesy. It's daring, hooky but only in a shimmery salmon run manner. The end-stop bulk buries you in an agitated avalanche of emotions, while each song variously causes wrinkled noses and sly seduction. The production is rich but in the present, the rhythm section of Miranda and Rondinelli, efficient and jazzy to their muso standards. But it's Buck's guitar that is the green star at the top of the disturbing drawing.

The man's solos are so idiosyncratically him, so fluid, sinewy, and appropriate for these double-backtrack tracks, that the force of his personality confidently plays a card like the Agents of Fortune album cover. But there's a vaguely depressive hollow ring to the album, again, delectably so, but hollow all the same, given that Buck has bowed out of the lyrics, with horror writer John Shirley doing most of them. They are, of course, very good, but somewhat second-guessing the fantastical world of the BÖC, a realm created most significantly by the collective of Richard Meltzer, Patti Smith, Sandy Pearlman, Helen Wheels (R.I.P.) and Buck himself. It is a clique as impermeable as Warhol's (extended) The Velvet Underground, and Shirley seems a late, too-aware intruder. Which is why the lone Meltzer tune "Stone of Love" is the far-and-away classic on here (I'm sure Buck wouldn't want to hear that), amongst a record with a good many really rich Blue Öyster Cult compositions.

Heaviest of the lot is "Eye of the Hurricane," and it's very cool, but the shocking relief of the track is that you find yourself not caring about finding stacked power chords. Even Eric's "Showtime," about exacting a little revenge once the shifty shiftless one gets out of prison, is set to a dark but funky pop swirl, and his next vocal, "The Old Gods Return" is written metal but then played cocktail sophisticated, sounding like older, wiser but more frail gods revisiting Cultosaurus Erectus. In effect, what you have is a Club Ninja with strong, diverse songs, including two "Burnin' For You"s - the gorgeous angles of "Pocket" and "Here Comes That Feeling" (great verse, boy band chorus). And sidling close to that concept is a sentiment buried in the title of the album: The fact that Blue Öyster Cult was always cursed by Buck's pop sensibility, as well as the idea that this is a new, more cynical and aged version of the band's self-professed cursed album, Mirrors.


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