It's a truism in the music business that inside every double album, there's a great single disk hiding inside. That is not the case with Hidden Agenda's "Cavalcade of Evil", a self-indulgent, bloated mess that recalls the excesses of G'n'R's Use Your Illusion I and II, or the simultaneous release of solo albums by all four members of KISS. Having attempted everything from garage rock to rap and R&B in previous releases, Hidden Agenda has now ventured into new territory, or should I say terror-tory, as they prove that they can't play country, hip-hop, Tejano and "progressive rock" either. Oh, how I wish murder were legal, so that someone could simply kill this band before they record again.
The double set is divided into two parts: "Aural" and "Fecal". The "Fecal" CD lives up to its name, opening with the hardcore "F**kit" and a dreadful Tejano song, sung in very bad Spanish, apparently about a raccoon. The CD's country tunes "Slow Drivin' Man" and "Proud to be the Great Satan" do a passable job of recreating the sound of low budget Nashville fare of the 1950's. "Proud to be the Great Satan" is appalling: a jingoistic battle cry listing everything that's wrong with America - except it appears the singer is *proud* of America's sins and excesses, rather than ashamed. The cartoonish "Attack of the Space Hippies" is reasonably inoffensive and almost humorous, while "Drain" and "Chubby" play to the band's real strengths: pointlessness and incoherence. Then there's "Hellfire Club", the CD's obligatory pro-Satan song, encouraging listeners to "party with the devil". Several tracks on both CDs feature an anonymous recorder soloist, showing a new low that even I did not expect this band to sink to. Toward the end of the "Fecal" CD, the listener is subjected to the Tejano song again, this time in English, and a Pat Boone/big band swing version of F**kit, redone as "Darnit". While the concept is amusing, the track is, like every other track on the disk, painful to endure.
The other CD, titled "Aural", appears to be heavily inspired by well known progressive rock bands. "Inspired" is probably not the correct word. The correct word is "stolen". From the Tangerine Dream homage "Andromeda Strange" and "Soft Sound Spaces" (which squeezes in every Yes cliché imaginable), to the 90's-era King Crimson/Fela Kuti mash-up "Pain Agony Death Suffering" and the utter pain of "Cupcakes" (which abuses Genesis, Marillion and Fish), the "Aural" CD exploits every excess that made progressive rock so bad to begin with. "Violence is the Answer", which appeared on the band's self-titled debut CD, reappears here, with all its free form piano noodling, soulless jamming and pretensious pipe organ ending intact. Zappa fans beware: the CD's lone cover is an aimless "Muffin Man". "Please Don't Vomit on the Midgets" rips off Phish, and "Petulant Frenzy" steals from everything from mid-70's fusion to modern prog rockers like Dream Theater. When no one is singing (and the recorder player isn't soloing), some of the Aural CD is actually listenable - a major step forward for a band that sets the "lead standard" for badness.
Rating: Cavalcade of Evil (** two stars)
"Aural" CD (*** three stars, for the instrumental sections)
"Fecal" CD (* one star, for the country tunes only)
Your humble servant, Eduard DeColere