Spinal Tap earns 110 percent

BY ERIC ANDERSEN | JUNE 16, 2009 7:11 AM

Spinal Tap: Back From the Dead
*********** out of **********

In 1984, director Rob Reiner unleashed the film This is Spinal Tap, setting the standard for all parody films and becoming one of the most revered comedies of all time. Twenty-five years later, Spinal Tap is releasing the aptly titled Back from the Dead.

Surprisingly, the album is solid (for a movie-made band) — even if it could use a few more new tunes.
Spinal Tap consists of legendary guitarist/vocalist David St. Hubbins (played by Michael McKean), lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), and bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer). On the album, the band re-records its classic tunes, such as “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight,” “Big Bottom,” and “Sex Farm.” More than half of the album consists of older songs reworked, but these versions actually sound better than the originals.

However, the big question on die-hard fans’ minds is whether the new tracks stack up.

The title track Back from the Dead is the best of the new songs on the CD — and actually is one of the band’s best of all time. It’s hard to pass up lyrics such as “Nothing’s more fun than flipping off the reaper / we’re back on our beeper / heading straight for the top.” “Warmer than Hell” is a play on the KISS song “Hotter than Hell,” and it could actually be confused for a valid classic rock song, with the exception of some cheesy lyrics (wait, scratch that — these lyrics are no cheesier than something you would find on a KISS album). “Rock ’n’ Roll Nightmare” is another rockin’ number that is slightly forgettable, but still better than the recent output of most real-life aging musicians (such as AC/DC).

The remaining new songs are funny but stray a bit from the straight-up heavy rock that some fans might prefer. “Celtic Blues” is just a bunch of layered vocals (but is a definite win with the lyrics “I loved me a lass whose hair was long and brown as the finest stew”), and “Jazz Odyssey” is an epic seven-part instrumental song mocking the million-part prog songs that such bands as Yes or Rush.

The blues-rock tinged “Short but Sweet” is cool only because it features Def Leppard’s Phil Collen and badass guitarist Steve Vai. Oh yeah, I guess it has John Mayer, too (if you’re into that).

The biggest problem with Back from the Dead is that there aren’t enough new songs on the album (though I would rather see five quality new tunes rather than 10 shit sandwiches). Spinal Tap’s marketing team put together an amazing package that will deter Internet pirates. The deluxe CD version includes an hour-long bonus DVD of studio footage, a download for the unreleased song “Saucy Jack,” and one of the best album designs to ever grace store shelves. (Seriously, the artwork contains 12-inch action figure cut-outs of the band and a mini-Stonehenge. This thing takes 20 minutes to put together. That’s 50 cents per minute of fun right there.)

In all, Back From the Dead will not only make Spinal Tap fans happy, it may even bring a few new believers into the fold. Turn this one up to 11.

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