By Andrew Stevens.
Spinal Tap, Back From The Dead, Essential, 2009
2005 was the year of the Liam Gallagher Spinal Tap revelation, that he honestly took the band to be a real entity and not a made up parody. As dim behaviour of the self-fulfilling kind went, it was a gift that kept on giving. A ‘Stonehenge’ moment for the superannuated Britpoppers surely gets closer and closer with every senseless trudge through the back catalogue (Meg Matthews was also a convincing “Australian’s nightmare”-like Jeanine hanger-on figure). Like Oasis themselves, Tap have decided that their formula still works and capitalising on the current reunion fad, issued Back From The Dead, an album largely composed of ‘reworkings’ of tracks from This Is Spinal Tap.
As others have noted, this album could not only be considered unnecessary but as also detracting from repeat enjoyment of the original songs. Why do ‘Stonehenge’ or ‘Big Bottom’ need reworking? Why meddle with brilliance? On this occasion, the musicians on the album now include a member of the House of Lords (Baron Haden Guest, aka Christopher Guest, aka Nigel Tufnel) – rock royalty indeed – but suffers from being performed and recorded by men now in their 60s. Guest, McKean and Shearer have contaminated the Tap brand before, 1992’s Break Like The Wind acting as self-parody of a parody (a ‘serody’, as one of the band might put it). The Return of Spinal Tap (1994) was barely an adequate sequel to the film, suffering from the lack of a good script, a barely worked out concept and no Rob Reiner directing. And yet, there’s something brilliant about two of the reworkings on this album, that of a ridiculously funked up version of ‘Sex Farm’, satisfyingly grotesque in its sheer awfulness. Equally, the cod reggae treatment of ‘Flower People’ doesn’t fail to induce laughter either, another jibe at a po-faced and synthetic genre. It shows that the Tap team haven’t lost it altogether.
The occasional reunion, such as the Simpsons appearance, Live Earth and One Night Only World Tour, are legitimate opportunities to bring a new generation of fans to the defining mockmentary which created the blueprint for so many others to follow. It’s not as if the trio hadn’t already excelled themselves with the likes of Best in Show and A Mighty Wind (both benefiting from the cringe comedy of Eugene Levy and Fred Willard). If Guest, McKean and Shearer felt there was more mileage in Tap, why sully the brand with reworkings, given the copious amount of potential spin-offs from the original film? The mooted Jack the Ripper musical Saucy Jack would have been a welcome riposte to the whole shoddy world of Ripperologists. Liam Gallagher might have even been persuaded of its originality. As it stands, Back From The Dead is a good in-joke but like all in-jokes, its effect is limited.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew Stevens is a contributing editor of 3:AM and lives in London.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, July 27th, 2009.