BAD NEWS — Bad News (review)

BAD NEWS — Bad News album cover Album · 1987 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Vim Fuego
When it comes to parody bands, two reign supreme. Spinal Tap's story, told in their famous "rockumentary", is the classic 70s rock dinosaur has-beens who had trouble adapting to the challenges of the 1980s. The band saw their career slipping away due to a combination of comical disasters and general apathy from the listening public, only to be rescued by unexpected popularity in Japan.

Whether the Japanese even know who Bad News are or not, their story is far more pathetic, and far, far less classy. Bad News were so bad they weren't even has-beens. The quintessential struggling ‘eavy metal band, Bad News were the subject of a 1983 documentary, which followed the band on the tour which basically spelled the end because it was so disastrous. However, the album `Bad News' was the result of a reunion five years later, as the band prepared to play at the famous Donnington festival.

The album is a number of studio outtakes of songs being recorded, behind-the-scenes incidents, demoing songs, the band arguing, and then there's the odd actual song. Kicking off with "Bad Dreams Rehearsal", where the four distinct personalities of the band combine to create something mind blowingly... awful. Thick as a plank rhythm guitarist Den Dennis presents the embryonic song to the rest of the band, using acoustic guitar and unfinished lyrics. Self-proclaimed creative genius and band leader Vim Fuego (real name Alan Metcalfe) hates it, and makes a few suggestions. Musically inept bass player Colin Grigson tries to make the song sound tough, but it turns camp. Meanwhile, drummer Spider Webb contributes very little due to being wasted on some substance or other. The band's "A.G.M." follows, the second such meeting in a week, in which names for the new album are discussed. Next, the band introduces themselves, which features Den twice, because Spider didn't turn up.

The band don't actually play a song until the fourth track, "Bad News". The song is basically fourth rate NWOBHM mixed with hackneyed 70s hard rock clichés, with a little 80s glam rock thrown in. The band's solo spots are thoroughly incompetent, with Colin's out of time bass solo, and Den forgetting his break altogether. Vim Fuego steals a Queen riff ("Brighton Rock", I do believe), and the song falls apart. It is a mess, but is a glorious mess, a loving, if inept, tribute to the glory of rock and metal.

As far as the rest of the songs go, "Masturbike" is a terrible pun with some of the silliest lyrics ever recorded, mostly because Vim forgets the proper ones half way through the song, and ad libs the final part of the song. "Drink `Til I Die" includes some wonderfully silly lines (“Give me another drink/Mr. Bartender/If you don’t I’m gonna stick/Your dick in a blender”), and like the title indicates, it's a tribute to alcohol, played in a blues rock/metal style. "Hey Hey Bad News" is a disastrous live track, including a false start to the song, and a lot of swearing from Vim, at the rest of the band and the audience alike. The audience gets in on the act, replying in kind to Vim's chant. His solo is also suitably tuneless.

"Warriors Of Genghis Khan" however, is a different story. It's actually not bad, with a catchy tune, sing-along lyrics, and a good dose of humour. Many real bands have escaped with recording cheesier songs than this. The blues-y metal is underpinned with sounds of war, horses galloping, and samurai fighting (complete with Oriental guitars). "Cashing In On Christmas" is a poke at over blown, over produced festive rubbish which bands sometimes release as a seasonal cash in. It's the cleanest sounding song on the whole album. The band are quite forthcoming with their money grabbing attitude ("Every Christmas we're rocking/Rocking all the way to the bank").

The centrepiece of the whole album is a delightful cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". The opening guitar passage is dreadfully out of tune and sets the tone for the entire song. The drums miss the beat, and Vim Fuego's wail/shout is utterly tuneless. The operatic vocal passage is undertaken by the whole band who sound drunk and clueless at the same time, complete with strained falsetto voices. Vim almost nails the main solo, but not the vocals, which are still a mile out. The song deteriorates into a bad karaoke breakdown, but the band seem suitably pleased with themselves.

There are several more spoken pieces interspersed between the songs, discussing topics from stuffing vegetables down your pants to money, more song writing and recording, and Den's interview with a French magazine. Liberal use of four letter words, toilet humour and rock clichés abound, making for hilarious listening.

Of course, being a parody, there are some real people behind the characters portrayed here. Adrian Edmondson (Vim), Rik Mayall (Colin) and Nigel Planer (Den) found success as three quarters of The Young Ones, while Peter Richardson (Spider) was a member of the Comic Strip. All four actors could actually play their instruments, but whether or not they were playing to the best of their abilities or playing badly on purpose has never been revealed. Queen's Brian May had a hand in the production of the album, and possibly played some of the guitar parts.

Bad News did actually tour in the late 80s, and played Donnington. By all reports, the band live were as hilarious as they were on record. The songs here are utterly clichéd, simplistic and poorly executed, but they were like that intentionally. The spoken interludes are side splittingly funny at times. Even non-rock fans will find this appealing. `Bad News' should be compulsory listening for anyone who ever wants to start a band.
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