Saturday, June 6, 2015

Be-Bop Deluxe: Axe Victim

Be Bop Deluxe’s Axe Victim is a sickening lurch into the gutters of the music business. It’s also a rock masterpiece. Be Bop Deluxe, guided by Bill Nelson, were clearly a formative influence on Glenn Tillbrook and Squeeze, but what’s being squeezed here, via nauseous tempo changes, turgid assaults of expert lead guitar, and touring imagery interspersed with free-associative poetic similes and metaphors akin to ones employed on Third/Sister Lovers, is the sense that by 1974, Bill Nelson was just as fed up with the rigors of the music business as Alex Chilton was. That Axe Victim is a kind of aural horror movie distracts attention from how painstakingly honest it is, from the sad amps in the back of the tour van to the curvy, murderous road to Hull and back again. Axe Victim, in fact, is so intense as a rock experience, in line with Big Star’s Third, and expresses such nihilistic emptiness, in brusque, macho fashion, that it may attract a long-term audience who can only stomach the starvation and the squalor at intervals; and, indeed, Axe Victim, despite its musical and lyrical excellence, is not the kind of tune to put on endless replay, except (perhaps) on Halloween.