Billy Idol, ‘The Cage EP’: Album Review

Billy Idol is eligible for Medicare and is a grandfather, but he still has some burrs under the saddle and ghosts in the machine to deal with in his golden years. The artist formerly known as William Broad makes all that clear The Cage EPa record of four songs that follows last year’s The roadside and now appears to be Idol’s preferred form of new music release. The truncated format certainly works to his advantage, as well as the listener’s, as this mouth-watering 14-minute dose of Idol blazes by in a flash, leaving us wanting more, more, more.

The mockery, angst and “hopeless rage” of Idol’s iconic ’80s hits are evident throughout The cagewith long-time guitarist and co-author Steve Stevens still on the side firing off meaty riffs like he has them in stock just waiting for their turn to be taken into the studio. And while the raging idol persona may seem ripe for caricature, on The cage – released in tandem with George Harrison– established Dark Horse Records label (now run by his son Dhani) – he presents himself as subtly matured, wiser but not necessarily tamed after 45 years of releasing music.

Idol kicks things off by “screaming in isolation” from a “Cage,” ready to erupt after “living on the edge” and “fighting my demons,” while Stevens and the other players steer the song from its tense verse to an explosive bridge and chorus. You can drop this on any of Idol’s multi-platinum efforts from the ’80s, or even on a Rick Springfield album, and it would sound just as valid then as it does now.

Idol digs even deeper on “Running From the Ghost,” staring out by singing alone with a piano before the track once again explodes, this time into the kind of galloping, goth-y metallic opus that Evanescence or Ghost would be proud to have on their album. Stevens appropriately channels a sizzling twin guitar attack, while Idol’s examination of “the Jekyll to my Hyde” leads us into some dark internal struggles that fuel his muse.

The cageThe other two songs are character studies. “Rebel Like You” is a glamorous, guitar-drenched rocker where Idol spots a fan in the crowd.in your leather boots and black vest that looks like me” — and love it. The closing “Miss Nobody” is the change, meanwhile, produced by hitmaker Butch Walker and co-written by fellow pop hitmaker Sam Hollander; its sonic polish and slinky rhythm link are decidedly modern, but the women in the story — down and out, but not defeated, and still defiant – isn’t far from where Idol has placed itself on the EP. There are probably some Idol fans who are frustrated with the EP format and want something full-length. But The short approach is to keep Idol vital and in as fine tension as he’s ever been, so let’s not rock this cradle right now.

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A stage name like Billy Idol isn’t chosen just because it sounds cool.


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