Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Club Ninja: Blue Oyster Cult’s unappreciated mid-80s gem

Derek Handova says Blue Oyster Cult Club Ninja album unappreciated 80s gem
Having been familiar with Blue Oyster Cult since the 80s, I have long wondered why they were so under appreciated. Surely, they had their day in the sun with 70s classics such as “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” “Godzilla” as well as 80s’ favorites “Shooting Shark” and “Burnin’ for You.” But in a scene reminiscent of something out of “This is Spinal Tap” there was a band shakeup sometime around their album “Fire of Unknown Origin” and only lead guitarist Buck Dharma and lead singer/guitarist Eric Bloom remained into the mid 80s.

This could be why a wonderful album of theirs, “Club Ninja,” was overlooked at the time of issue in 1986 and remains underappreciated to this day in 2014. Having seen Blue Oyster Cult several times in recent years, most recently at Slim’s in San Francisco on February 1, 2014, the band continues to dip back into this album, playing on this occasion “Dancin’ in the Ruins,” a nice little number with some easy sing-along choruses for the crowd at this cozy concert venue. Other times at Slim’s, BOC has played “Perfect Water” with interesting wordplay such as “Do you know Jacques Cousteau when they said on the radio | That he hears bells in random order, deep beneath the perfect water?”

But perhaps the most overlooked song on this disc is the rocking tune “Beat ‘Em Up.” With an ethereal guitar opening that begins in the right channel and quickly shifts to the left channel, the listener has the sensation that she has been buzzed by some spacecraft from outer space. With lines like “We’ll stop sockin’ when you start rockin’ | You don’t give up you just give in.” BOC recalls the menace of 70s cult classics “Seven Screaming Diz Busters” and “Dominance and Submission.”

Perhaps considered too long in the tooth by Reaganite kids weaned on the likes of Gun ‘n’ Roses and Metallica and its own audience probably having moved onto to something more easy listening in Bruce Springsteen or U2, Blue Oyster Cult gave it the old college try in any event. But the band was never one to get caught up in fashion trends or the weight of popular culture given its commentary in lyrics saying, “That was 20 years ago and this ain't the Summer of Love.” Have no fear of these reapers—merry they are and not at all grim—as they continue to make their living in the 500-seat concert halls, county fairs and Indian casinos across this fair land. And all the while selling T-shirts emblazoned with their undying declaration of “On tour forever”!

-Derek Handova
Appreciative Listener

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