Album Review: People of Earth — Dr. Steel
Was I reviewing an album or a complete online persona? (luv the teddy)
How I found him.
I was checking some suggested artists out on LAST.FM when I came across Ronald McDonald as a suggested artist…. FTW? So, I clicked only to find Steampunk among the genres connected to The Red Haired Clown. I was surprised to find the steampunk actually existed as a music genre, and as a fan of brass goggles (not the clown), I clicked the tag and was presented with a list of thumbnails of artists associated with Steampunk… And there he was, his iconic profile, a beacon of light among the dully and morbidly Gothic profiles that were plugging themselves by adding the avant-garde SteamPunk tag to their profile.
I’m really sorry, but even Emilie Autumn, who classes herself as Victoriandustrial, was far more Steampunk than any of the emo faces I saw here! And so I was compelled to click on the austere, out-of-place-in-his-own-genre profile of Dr. Steel.
As I always do before I listen to a new artist, I clicked on his gallery and was confronted with a menagerie of slick images. The sheer imagination, originality and production values of the photos effectively demonstrated what a consummate detail-artist he is. Not only that, but the wide range of influences, including Vaudeville, Jules Verne, Victorian, Lincoln, Industrial, Frankenstein, Tom Waits, Nine Inch Nails, Vlad Tepez and Marilyn Manson are truly a delight to behold.
More importantly, although coming across as intensely, almost pretentiously stylish and cool, there was an immediate intelligence matched with an equal aura of playfulness and frivolity to the images that was outstanding.
On the Dr. Steel profile page of Last.fm there was a suggestion of the Dr. Steel Show, so heading over to Youtube I soon found them and each one just has to be watched!
Dr. Steel Show
- Ep #1
- Ep #2
- Ep #3 – doubling as Back and Forth music video.
Immediately beguiled, I headed over to emusic.com in the hope that his albums would be available; they were!
He has made only three albums since 2001 so was clearly not what one would call prolific, nor, by his mere 13,000 odd LAST.FM listeners could he be considered in any way mainstream…
I listened to the 30 second clips before choosing People of Earth as my first album.
People of Earth
First up, the song titles are a mixture of Frank Black and Frank Zappa. Fibonacci Sequence… C’mon Seriously? And he made a song about it? What is this, the The Songatron?
- Fibonacci Sequence
- Planet X Marks the Spot
- Back and Forth
- Bogeyman Boogie
- Ode to Revenge
- Secret Message
- Atomic Superstar
- We Decide
- Winky in C Minor
- The Singularity
This album has a number of highlights, from the high energy glam rock opening of Imagination through to the grind-rock of The Singularity, there is a cohesion and theme which sets this album apart from a number of concepts.
The second track, Fibonacchi Sequence is a remarkably unbalancing mix of absurdism and industrial rap, which somehow manages to cover the subject with humor.
The first real highlight of the album comes with Planet X Marks the Spot, an upbeat number cleverly bemoaning the mess that humans have got themselves into. The faithful sampled Mariachi strings and brass, keep the pace and energy levels high with a catchy hook being peppered throughout the song. As the most instrumented song on the album, It also features accordion, saw and bow, music box and steel piano.
Dr. Steel rages against blind consumerism in the catchiest song of the album, Back and Forth (as played in Dr. Steel Show Part 3 – above), which combines an outstanding combination of the swinging 20’s muted trumpets and double bass on top of throaty lyrics.
The weakest part of the album is the instrumental Bogeyman Boogie, which while having an attractive Spanish Guitar riff, comes across as a pale Zappaesque imitation shot through with rather nasty Scoobie Doo cartoonish sound effects… Sorry but this one’s not a keeper.
Dr. Steel gets himself all glammed up and dramatic with the unsettling Ode to Revenge, a Gothic Opera which flits somewhere between Tom Waits at his creepiest and Joe Cocker on heroin. It spins the background story of frustration at modern (American) society and a Fight Club like desire to “Burn it All Down”
Glutton is a Metal-driven, stadium-filling power anthem which has Dr. Steel screaming his way though the track at breakneck pace. This is perhaps the only song you’ll ever heard featuring a Dalek chorus.
He breaks out a Bowie-like spread of electronica for Secret Message, a song which seems to me to suggest someone going mad and beginning to spot messages and patterns in the static.
Atomic Superstar is a curious ode to Godzilla as he rampages through the centre of Tokyo. Fun, perhaps but, but it comes across more a confused and incoherent mess of disparate styles rather than meshing like the other, superior tracks on this album. not as memorable as the other tracks on the album.
Another excellent track can be found in We Decide. Which has Dr. Steels relates a cleverly crafted story in a close miked radio croon over Spanish guitar, accordion and double bass with a simple and very catchy riff. It is notable for its lower tone, more laid back instrumentation and harmonic backing choir.
The Doctor gets all “Nightmare Before Christmas” for Winky in C Minor, another instrumental which comes across more stocking filler than wanted present.
It does however prepare the listener well for the darkest and lyrically most interesting number of the album, The Singularity, which is a darkly brooding rock track on the convergence of humans and technology and the transcendence of genetics.
All in all, Dr. Steel has produced another album, which while not being Earth shatteringly epic in any way, does set out to do what it was meant to… Entertain.
It is an excellent example of production, flair for the humorous and is very, very catchy.
Give Dr. Steel a listen on You Tube.