A few weeks ago I stumbled across a cute little blog in the online version of a St Louis rag in which the author declared that the only people that respect Rob Zombie records are, "bad strippers;" and that Zombie hasn't made a good record since fucking Soul Crusher, his debut with White Zombie way back in 1987. The title of the piece was "Ten Bands You Never Thought Used to Be Good," and it's predictably cheeky, clever, and for the most part, well informed. But what planet does this kid live on where Rob Zombie has ever released a bad record? I certainly have never heard such a thing, and that goes not only for his solo work, but also for his goddamn classic White Zombie records, and even his latest release, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, due to be release in late April.
Many of the problems that arise with Zombie's music, indeed his entire creative output including films like The Devil's Rejects, lies in how seriously people take his work. There is a strong, vocal contingent of rabid fans who honestly believe that Rob Zombie is an absolute creative genius whose otherworldly talent is wholly unquestionable and above reproach. On the other side there are individuals (like the author above) who find his work to be nothing but laughable, cheesy, B-movie inspired, D-grade schlock designed to exploit the anti-social tendencies of awkward teenagers, creepy adult males with pentagram tattoos, and bad strippers who zoned out on episodes of The Munsters while daddy beat the shit out of mommy.
But in reality, Zombie's music, and again his entire creative output, resides in a strange, ethereal middle ground, one where both sides are absolutely correct. Yes, Rob Zombie is a sham, a huckster, a fraud, a charlatan, and a bamboozler. Yes, he has a simple little formula that he follows in everything he does artistically that is always held in check by the thought of "Wait, will people buy this? Will my fanbase go for it?" But, alternatively, Rob Zombie is nothing if not a crowd pleaser, and an ultimate entertainer. He's a dreadlock dragging, faux Satan worshiping, goth'd out, fucked up version of Tom Jones who has never betrayed the fans who have stood by him over the years, and refuses to disappoint the newbies who want to join his tribe - be they inspired to do so by his music, movies, or on-stage persona. And he doesn't give a shit what anyone else thinks which is always worthy of respect.
Venomous shows Zombie at his absolute, terrifying best - totally rocking out and partying under the decrepit freak flag he's been waving for years.The lead single, "Dead City Radio and the New God's Of Supertown," is a thumping orgy of devilish celebration that pulses through thrashy, stomping, post-industrial chaos as Zombie declares: "I'm a Rhinestone tiger in a leisure suit!" What does it mean? It doesn't matter - it's a fucking blast! And the rest of the record is pretty much the same. Strong tracks like "Revelation Revolution" and "Rock and Roll (in a Black Hole)" are shattering quakes of electro-infused, grinding adrenaline that are impossible not to dig after a few lukewarm, foam filled pops from a nearly tapped keg of PBR, and watching the girls in torn fishnets dance.
The rest of the record isn't full of filler either. Tracks like "Behold! The Filthy Creatures" and "The Girl Who Loved The Monsters," and particularly his cover of Grand Funk Railroad's "We're an American Band" are bonafide roof raisers that put the pedal to the metal and hold until the dance floor is doused with steamy sweat and spit and vomit, and maybe a little blood and shame - all the essential juices of rock and roll sweltering in one big cauldron of debauched hyper-reality that's almost enough to make the guy at the party who tells everyone his name is "Lucifer" and gets too drunk and embarrasses himself in front of all the girls in torn fishnets and questionable piercings forget his day job reality of, "Hello, I'm Edward from accounts payable. Yes, I got the memo about TPS Reports".
Zombie has claimed that this record "perfectly merges the days of White Zombie with the future of what I'm doing now", and that's a fair assessment. Also, he's headlining the annual Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival traveling circus along with Amon Amarth and Mastodon, and the songs from this record will undoubtedly slake the thirst of his fans. Just remember, it's a party, but not everyone is invited.