Welcome to My Nightmare

Trashman suffers through a holiday weekend's worth of wife-beaters, prison cutthroats and Ian Astbury songs

But all that was a long stinkin' time ago, and after a pair of flop albums and a 1996 onstage brawl in France, The Cult was purportedly gone forever.

Beyond Good and Evil catches them back together and looking old. So old, in fact, that it's easy to imagine them as westside porn shop dwellers; creepy figures with soccer-ball guts, wrinkly smirks and boxy shoes.

Beyond Good and Evil sounds younger, though. More like a circle of pud-pullers whose musical orbs rise and fall in direct proportion to convention employed. For an '80s band produced by Bob Rock (Ratt, Mötley Crüe), the songs successfully deconstruct even the flimsiest of '90s rawk styles including Soundgarden riffs, latter-day Gn'R poses and industrial ya-ya. The soaring linear thud of the band's mid-'80s semi-hits, "She Sells Sanctuary" and "Revolution," is as dead as the hair follicles on guitarist Billy Duffy's head.

Rand Carlson

The disc's only mildly melodic moment comes in "Nico," the band's nod to a dead Lower East Side goddess. (Who could forget the Cult's clumsy homage to Edie Sedgwick, "Ciao Baby"?) "I watched your spirit fly/Across the velvet sky," rhapsodizes a teary-toned Astbury, as the band strokes his ego with sustain and soaring open chords.

The remaining racket teams patented my-ax-is-my-cock rifflex with Astbury's audacious lyrical dexterity on songs with titles like "American Gothic" and "My Bridges Burn." Beyond Good and Evil seems destined to hold the interest of the dozen Cult fans the world over who, like a handful of Lava/Atlantic shills, will feign excitement for the next month or so until the record tanks.

Deep Blue Something
Deep Blue Something (Orpheus/Aezra)

Remember "Breakfast at Tiffany's," that Prozac-tainted Up With People-ish hurler that blanketed pop radio a few years back? Well, this is Deep Blue Something's follow-up album, one set in the same corporate-blather-posing-as-power-pop mold as its debut. The sound of pudgy white suburban guys who want to rock but are pussies so instead decide to mine Rhino's Poptopia series to such feeble extent that even Dwight Twilley would gasp. Suggested retail price? 49 cents. Availability? A cutout bin near you.

Bon Jovi
One Wild Night: Live 1985-2001 (Island)

Because the recording for Bon Jovi's new career-spanning live album took more than 15 years, I decipher its title as prophecy. It suggests that the rock 'n' roll value of Bon Jovi is based upon an accumulation of recordings from more than a decade of performances whose total worth equals that of a single lame night out. A history reduced to the resurrection of '80s mall anthems.

Glorious images of fright-wigged perms, snakeskin boots and leather jackets with fire-colored fringes come alive, best on "Runaway" and "Livin' on a Prayer." Fat reverb fortifies final chorus key changes just like in the old days, and whatever rough edges were once there are lost in the glossy parade of hooks for housewives.

Two recordings best illustrate Bon Jovi's ill-informed commitment to be taken seriously as songwriters. Done in a low-key club setting as if the songs bear close inspection, "Wanted Dead or Alive" and "Keep the Faith" do little to alter the idea of Jovi as an antiquated but skilled rock band going through its antediluvian steps. Jon Bon recently explained that those particular songs were "chosen for anyone who ever thought Bon Jovi is just an arena band." The group may fancy itself worthy of Tom Waits-like immediacy, but gut the band of its entertainment value -- the eyeliner-wearing-streetwise-badass-with-a heart-of-gold shtick -- and nothing's left but the sound of boringly safe corporate millionaires out for a round of golf.

Cred-goading covers of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" and the Boomtown Rats' "I Don't Like Mondays" come off in a way that suggests Eddie and the Cruisers. Who would have guessed that we'd live long enough to see the day when a poodle bar band would drag the Boomtown Rats down the Jersey turnpike and toss them to the scrap heap with all the Desmond Child clunkers?

Still, Bon Jovi managed to transcend the hairy-chest-and-mascara set to somehow sustain a fan base and define with precision the Golden Era of Rock Cheese. "You Give Love a Bad Name" is a song we've all heard a million times in the horrible dawns of desert kegger parties. That ditty encapsulates the dreaded moment in time when the need for a heavy, life-changing shift suddenly becomes clear. If you had the balls, you bailed. Bon Jovi, it seems, never did.

Eden's Crush
Popstars (London/Sire)

The key to understanding teen dance-pop these days is to understand that it is a medium created by youth culture geneticists for the express purpose of shifting shitloads of records. These folks pen the tunes, manufacture the image and seek out the bright young things to shimmy their pubescent booty. The genesis for said manipulation was the bubblegum and disco eras.

Eden's Crush is five lovely, mostly Latino babes in their early 20s who would be better served modeling pouts in Prada ads than on record covers. A collective nonentity sired nine months ago on the make-me-famous WB reality show Popstars, Eden's Crush has already landed its first No. 1 single, "Get Over Yourself." Spiritless, boring and vapid as the unmoving summer air, Popstars is the aural equivalent of a yellow legal pad. Milky R&B lightly peppered with Latino pop and that squishy soul-cum-disco popularized by bootyploitative hussies Destiny's Child. It's not surprising, then, that it took a laundry list of writers and producers to construct something so lacking in life.

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