Under the enthusiastic (mis)guidance of singer Jock McDonald, the semi-serious Bollock Brothers will try anything once, and make an art out of artless prole absurdity. Over the years, this unpredictable and virtually undefinable band has wavered between conceptual brilliance and total creative failure. The Last Supper, a double studio album, rambles easily from “Horror Movies” (a corny Munsterized dance theme) to attempted political criticism (“The Act Becomes Real,” with regard to Reagan), plus lots more, all characterized by inept singing and ept playing.
The bizarre Never Mind the Bollocks 1983 parodically reprises the entire contents (and cover design) of the Sex Pistols’ 1977 album. Rather than attempt to mimic the Pistols, however, the Bollock Bros. simply borrow the material in toto, adding a few lyrics of their own, and employ synthesizers to convert most of the tunes into a sub-New Order update with McDonald’s blandly artless vocals serving in lieu of Rotten’s sneering bile. Not exactly a piece of timeless musical history, but an amusing novelty record made just a bit weirder by the guest vocal appearance of Michael Fagin (a headcase once arrested for sneaking into Buckingham Palace) on “God Save the Queen” and “Pretty Vacant.” Fagin also appears on one side of the “official bootleg” Live Performances, a two-record collection of various concert appearances which revisits the band’s catalogue, including a set of Pistols tunes. Ridiculous.
The 4 Horsemen employs three of the least likely songwriters you’d ever expect to find sharing one album — McDonald, the late Alex Harvey and Vangelis — yet this well-produced studio job isn’t as wacky as that might indicate. Jock still can’t sing worth a damn, although his dumb B-movie lyrics remain as crazed and offbeat as ever; combined with the conservative rock backing, it makes for a regrettably tepid and laborious album.
Each side of The Prophecies of Nostradamus leads off with a typically devolved and irreverent cover version (Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” and Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker”). Although mysteriously retitled “God Created Woman,” Berlin’s “Sex (I’m a…)” is also featured, complete with a brief interpolation of “Satisfaction.” There are a few good originals, but McDonald’s cloying metaphysics on the title track and proselytic religious numbers like “Ceremony” and “The Beast Is Calling” degrade the music, appealingly played by a proficient five-person European band. (But what are we to make of Genevieve French’s credit for “backing vocals & special entertainment”?)