Spinal Tap—Back From the Dead
By Paul Kemp
June 23, 2009
The new Spinal Tap album is worth the purchase. The DVD commentary alone makes it a wise investment. The caveat is that it's better for the sake of nostalgia than it is as a rock or comedy album.
Their first record since 1992's Break Like the Wind, Back From the Dead reworks classic Tap tunes from the mockumentary, and throws in five new tracks for good measure. For the 25th anniversary of This Is Spinal Tap, the fictional band reunited (sans wigs) for a world tour, a Blu-Ray release of the film and an album that lends new production to Spinal Tap favorites like "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight," and "Stonehenge." Even Nigel Tufnel's much-maligned "Jazz Odyssey" makes an appearance, split into three different tracks.
The problem is that the humor loses its subtlety in the re-worked songs. The brilliance of This Is Spinal Tap is that it managed to so slyly lampoon heavy metal with songs that, while slightly ridiculous, were actually good rock songs. They were ridiculous, sure, but never silly. The overt humor of the film was the interaction between the band, while the songs themselves struck comedic genius in being fairly believable—though riotously bombastic—heavy metal tracks. Back From the Dead dispenses with the charade and brings the comedy to the forefront. Unfortunately, it's at the expense of both the music and the comedy.
Taking away the factor of believability takes away the teeth of Spinal Tap's wry satire. The joke only works if you could almost imagine a reality where a band like this existed, and existed entirely in earnest. Fortunately, the new tracks on the album find their comedic footing, and deftly walk the line between satire and well-written rock. As for the older material, let's just say this: Once the curtain is pulled back, it's not as effective when viewed as comedy, and it's not as well-executed when viewed as rock.
So, buy Spinal Tap's new album. You won't regret the purchase. And, rest assured, you will laugh. But the laughs aren't quite as satisfying as they used to be.
You can buy Back From the Dead here.