February 2000

Rob Zombie - American Made Music to Strip By
Geffen 069490349 2
Released: 1999

by Doug Schneider

Musical Performance **1/2
Recording Quality **1/2
Overall Enjoyment **1/2

[Reviewed on CD]I love acts like Rob Zombie because of the contradiction they represent. Despite their incriminating, almost offensive appearance, you can be sure that a lot of corporate-level planning went into creating that image. Rob Zombie isn’t as much a musician as he is a product. This isn’t to diminish his talent; he does have some, and he did a bang-up job on the artwork for the impressive and extensive CD jacket here. But perhaps what he should have delivered is a Rob Zombie doll. Maybe there is one already. If not, there should be because this guy’s got a perfect cartoon-like image going. He’s a clever marketing-machine product with a short shelf life that will rake in plenty of money from the pockets of unwitting teenage fans. This type of moneymaking scheme is so effective it should be classified as white-collar crime. Instead, it’s known as the music industry.

American Made Music To Strip By is not original music. It’s music from last year’s successful Hellbilly Deluxe remixed by DJ Lethal, Rammstein and Charlie Clouser, among others. What better way to cash in than to dish out again what you already made! You can almost hear the cash register going cha-ching! If you didn’t like Hellbilly, don’t read on since this won’t be your brand of music. But if you didn’t mind it, or even liked it, perhaps this is for you.

The title of this disc, at least up in this neck of the woods, rings very true. One "entertainer" I know who "works" to this music described these as "sex songs." This is hard rock set to a techno beat that's loud, raucous and infinitely danceable. Yes, you can strip to it, but you can listen to it too -- although you’ll probably end up dancing somewhat (and maybe you’ll sweat enough that, yes, you may want to take off your clothes, but I managed to keep mine on). Of the 12 songs here, it’s the opening cut, "Dragula," that compelled me to buy this disc, and it remains my favorite track. On this particular mix there’s an infectious groove that grabs you with a choke hold. This is in contrast to some current-day acts that too often rely on screaming voices, screaming guitars and screaming obscenities (Korn, Limp Bizkit, etc.) but forget that what they scream out should somehow resemble music.

A cursory listen to Zombie’s music may cause someone to mistake one song for the rest, but no, this doesn’t all sound the same. There’s no time for silly love songs and rock ballads here; this is played at machine-gun speed, but each song does have its own identity I assure you. Careful listening will reveal the different styles of the people who created the mixes too. Besides "Dragula," "Living Dead Girl," "Spookshow Baby," "The Ballad of Resurrection Joe," and "What Lurks On Channel X" are my favorites. "Demonoid Phenomenon," gets monotonous, but I can still listen to it on occasion. "Meet The Creeper" sounds too much like an inferior version of "Dragula" and could have been left out altogether.

Audiophiles will find the recording quality of this disc abysmal since it’s a mostly synthesized, in-the-studio production -- natural this is not. Nine Inch Nails delivers a similar type of sound in terms of assaulting the listener with a relentless sound wall, but NIN recordings generally are of much higher sonic quality. However, some of what’s done on this disc is impressive, and that’s what made me give it two and a half boxes instead of just two, which it deserved. It’s also one of the few discs of this genre that sounds decent on high-end systems. I’m not saying good, but decent enough to play. In fact, it sounds much better on my multi-thousand-dollar system than I’ve heard it in bars over PA systems, and that’s not always the case with music of this style. ("Shouldn’t it?" you ask. Not always. It’s a well-known fact that some music sounds much better on gawd-awful playback equipment; I’ve never heard an adequate explanation as to why.) Not surprisingly, given that this is a disc played for dance bars, the bass is deep, rock-solid, and clean -- people with big woofers and/or subwoofers will love it. The mixes are heavily layered, a virtual wall of sound, with no depth, but there is good clarity to what’s in there.

This is definitely not music for everyone, but it will be fun and reasonably entertaining for some. American Made Music To Strip By is aimed at a teenage-male audience, of course, and it may even find happiness in the collections of middle-aged men who grew up on the likes of Alice Cooper and Kiss. If you liked the music for the movie The Matrix (which includes a mix of "Dragula"), this may be a clue as to whether you’ll like this CD too. That said, I can only give this a so-so recommendation for a competent rehash of material released just a year ago. If you like Zombie or his style, check this CD out; but if you’re like me, you’d rather have something completely new.