PREVIEW: HIDDEN AGENDA, "Teddy Rabbits and Bunny Bears"
As punishment for various sins, I was forced to listen to the
latest Hidden Agenda release, deceptively subtitled "Songs for Children".
This little piece of false advertising is a vile, criminal act -- but then
again so is the whole CD. All the familiar Hidden Agenda trademarks are there:
the obsession with violent death, bad vocals, deliberate atonality, and perhaps
the most unlistenable Steve Miller cover yet, but somehow they have managed
to reach a new low (difficult for a band as awful as this one), in adding
topics such as prison rape, school shootings, and drug abuse by toddlers to
their narrow, but deeply offensive mal oeuvres.
Unlike previous releases, there is a certain stylistic consistency
to this CD. And strangely enough, it's funky R&B of the George Clinton and
Barry White variety. This comes as a severe system shock, following two CDs
of garage band punk inspired by the Ramones, Sex Pistols and Seattle grunge.
Fans of the older CDs (the assumption that the band has fans is mere speculation,
most industry experts assume that the primary market for the band's music
is graduate students in psychology researching various personality disorders)
will still find some familiar sounds: "Corporate Anthem" and "England's Plastic
Rose" are pure Sex Pistols, with "Rose" serving as an updated "God Save the
Queen", this time slagging poor Princess Di. "This is What you Get Because
You Suck" takes on school shootings and punishes the listener with some of
the worst off key "harmony" vocals ever recorded.
The band members, whoever they are, show off their musically
literate and sophisticated side as they crossfade Steve Miller with Philip
Glass in "Eagle on the Beach", lay down some smooth jazz in "Magic Moments"
and "We're All Gonna Die", attempt to rap on "Betty Ford Baby", re-create
the Grateful Dead vibe on "Please Don't Lay me Down", and merge the sounds
of Boston, Duran Duran and the Psychedelic Furs in "Superstar Teenage Slut".
Don't let the candy coating fool you, though, lurking beneath the "pretty
music" are the usual disturbing lyrics about revenge, suicide and mass murder.
If anything, this band has become more dangerous as these polished "radio
ready" tracks make it easier for them to sneak their subversive antisocial
messages to an unsuspecting audience.
"Hellorgy of the Screaming Blood Freaks" features someone named
"Davien" (who sounds as if he is demonically possessed), howling over a catchy
dance track. In a similar vein, the band covers Donna Summer's "Bad Girls/Hot
Stuff" medley, turning it into a death metal dirge. "You Stole My Squid",
according to the CD liner notes, is nothing more than the drunken ramblings
of a homeless person, supported by a guitar track that sounds suspciously
like a lounge jazz favorite. Similarly, "They Didn't Have No Heads" is a rambling,
surreal spoken word track of drug abuse and violence. Both of these tracks
try to call up the "cool" of Tom Waits, but get lost along the way, ending
up in the Arizona desert knocking on Captain Beefheart's trailer door asking
for more peyote.
Coming from any other band, the song "A Gun Named Jesus" (with
music like a tent revival rave-up and lyrics two steps past the Beatles 'Happiness
is a Warm Gun') would be easily identified as a jab at religion and the NRA.
When Rael sings "if you ain't been sinnin'/you better not start/or I'll get
out Jesus/and let some light into your heart," he's probably serious. Dead
serious. Inexplicably, this song shows up twice on the CD, with an instrumental
version re-named "Cubic Zirconia Bullets of Pure Evil" and music that recalls
Spinal Tap's "Jazz Odyssey", Mahavishnu Orchestra, and the excesses of 70's
fusion at their worst.
At the start of this album, Hidden Agenda lays down their mission
statement: "to make just one child cry". With their new release, they should
have no problem making children, and adults, not only cry, but double over
in agony and beg for death.
Rating: no stars
Your humble servant, Eduard DeColere
Sponsored by the Natasfosuna Corporation for the Morally