A Man Called Destruction
Here’s the thing about cult artists: if you’re already in the cult, it’s hard to explain why you’re a fan. All you have to do is listen to the object of your musical admiration and it’s obvious why they’re so great. But you either get it or you don’t. That’s why some people swear by everything Tom Waits has ever done while others can’t get past the voice and the weirdness. To me, Alex Chilton’s genius is blatantly apparent on almost everything he’s ever done. His three albums with Big Star are all pop/rock masterpieces. If that was all he ever did it would have been enough. His solo career is icing on the cake.
If you’ve already drank the Chilton Kool-Aid and haven’t heard A Man Called Destruction yet then do yourself a favor and pick it up. Omnivore Records has made it easy for you by kindly reissuing it. This is music for fans of Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers. On the surface it’s good, plain ol’ R&B influenced rock ‘n’ roll, featuring some great guitar work by Chilton and a killer horn section, but underneath there’s something not easily explainable. “Sick and Tired” starts off the album with a saxophone groove that can’t help but make you smile and/or dance. It’s not long before the strangeness shows up though. While “Devil Girl” is a cool, New Orleans-style, lounge R&B song there’s something tweaked about it. There’s a break in the middle where Chilton declares, “Satan rules, ” and whether or not you laugh at it or with it determines if you’re a fan or not.
If you think his cover of “What’s Your Sign Girl” is a put on then this album just isn’t for you. Chilton-ites will hear the sincerity in it. They, like the man himself, will realize that “Il Ribelle” and “New Girl in School” are just good rock songs, which is why they deserve to be covered here. The rest of the originals that close out the album, as well as the bonus tracks, make a beautiful, complete package that’s off-beat to be sure, but at it’s core is just great music. To only see silliness is to completely miss the point. Alex Chilton was one of our most unique musicians and he believed very genuinely in what he was doing. This is why he was never big in his time yet people continue to discover him. He was a true original that the rest of the world is trying to catch up to. These reissues are a pretty good start.