Where to start with Spiders & Snakes? Their roots go as far back as late 70's LA band Sister, a band featuring S&S frontman Lizzie Grey, Blackie Lawless of WASP and Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx. Post Sister, Nikki and Lizzie went on to form the infamous London who acted as a kinda 'rock star training school' with members of Guns n' Roses, Cinderella, WASP, Mott The Hoople and many more passing through their ranks. In the late 80's however, Lizzie left London along with their then drummer Timothy Jay to start another new band, Ultrapop, who then became Spiders & Snakes. 15 years and 7 studio albums later they release Melodrama, their eighth studio effort and include a DVD for your viewing pleasure.
Starting with the CD, a dark carnival intro gives way to a drumbeat that sounds heavily like the same one used in Hot Hot Heat's breakthrough single 'Bandages'. The track itself, "Friends Like You" has more than a slight hint of Celebrity Skin about it. "Fear of Flying", which originally appeared with different lyrics on the bands 1992 album Arachno II, has a solo and riff straight from 1986 and has a dark malevolance reminiscent of Alice Cooper's 'Wind Up Toy'. The fucked up fairytale feel continues with "Rock and Roll With You" before the ubiquitous big ballad, "The Way" which sounds like it wants to be Use Your Illusion era Guns n' Roses. It's from this point that the album goes from a good album to a great album, the first 4 tracks (5 if you include the title-tracked intro) are all good songs in their own right but are totally outshone by the rest of the album. An intermission of a short cover of "Dream A Little Dream" famously covered by 'Mama' Cass Elliot works extremely well and further serves to show the album as two very different halves. "Shoot Me Down" is a stunningly good power-pop song with vocals by bassist Phil St. Vincent. A cover of the Bay City Rollers classic "Yesterdays Hero" follows and fits well with the rest of the tracks here. The 70's glam inspiration continues for the rest of the album with "Kicks" and another ballad "Another Lonely Day" which works a lot better than "The Way". The Ziggy Stardust influences finally come to a head on "Dream Girl" which contains the classic 'We Can Love, Oh Yes, We Can Love' lyric. The album naturally closes with the bittersweet "Forever", yes the album is filled with every cliché of 70's and 80's rock'n'roll but that's no bad thing. If we're honest - those are the things we love this style of music for.
The DVD includes an old short interview with Lizzie and drummer Timothy Jay which has snippets of a couple of promo videos, a slideshow of various photos and press cuttings but the main feature is a 30 minute live show recorded at the Key Club in Hollywood. Both the track played over the slideshow and the concert are presented in both 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround sound. The concert is preceded by an advert for recycling bottles and cans that the band appeared in which is pretty funny and not something I was expecting to see at all. There's 8 tracks on offer including covers of The Sweet's 'Little Willy' and Motley Crue's 'Public Enemy No.1' which of course was co-written by Lizzie and Nikki Sixx. The sound is great throughout but the video quality isn't perfect and looks like it was recorded by the club's own CCTV cameras. Pretty good gig though and the video quality certainly isn't poor enough to detract from your enjoyment.
I've been aware of Spiders & Snakes since they formed but I've never actually bothered to listen to them, there was just something about them that never interested me whenever I read about them. When I got this album to review I have to say I wasn't looking forward to having to do so but every now and then something comes along and surprises the hell outta you. Spiders & Snakes are one such thing! This is a very good album and the inclusion of the DVD only makes the package even better. With a tour currently booked for the US and the promise of dates throughout Europe to come here's hoping they get some of the recognition that they deserve. I'll certainly be using this album as a starting point and getting their back catalogue, I feel a bit silly for ignoring such a good band for all these years!
by John Baxter
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