Picks and Pans Review: Whiplash Smile

updated 01/12/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/12/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

Billy Idol

The first indication that Billy Idol wants to try something new with his fourth U.S. release appears on the album's back cover. There he is—defying all rumors that his lips could not form anything other than a sneer or pout—actually smiling. As if that weren't enough of a shock, Idol spent a year and a half in the studio to make sure there would be surprises inside the jacket too. In the past Idol made top-notch dance tunes by letting restrained introductions explode into all-hell-breaks-loose choruses. On Whiplash Smile, he still serves up growling vocals and macho machine gun guitars. But his new songs sputter out or fade away instead of igniting. The sing-a-long choruses are gone as are the tough-guy lyrics. Let's face it: The old yeller has mellowed. His new songs focus more on his loneliness and desire for true love than his desire for sex. Idol deserves some credit for expanding his repertoire, but he has cut out too much of the fun. It just doesn't feel authentic when Mr. Black Leather and Chains tries out Ricky Nelson style innocence on Sweet Sixteen. Maybe in 10 years people will call Whiplash Smile Idol's great breakthrough into a subtle new style. For now, it's still okay to ask the deejay for Rebel Yell when you want to rock out. (Chrysalis)

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