Spinal Tap


Polygram Records, 1984

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The story goes that many real-life bands refuse to see the movie This Is Spinal Tap, simply because the parody of the touring heavy-metal band is too set in reality, to the point where it almost could be a documentary of their own bands. The movie is hilarious, and I'm proud to have a copy in my own video library.

But the soundtrack to the movie has one little problem: the music, while a tad simplistic, is pretty damned good. I don't know if Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest knew it, but their parody of the metal scene in 1984 was actually better than some of the sludge that real bands were putting out.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Actually, the band (whose members included keyboardist David Caff and drummer R.J. Parnell in 1984) had to know they were on to something; why else would they "reunite" to put out Break Like The Wind in 1991? Granted, none of the three actors would be giving people like Eddie Van Halen a run for their money when it came to solos (though Shearer turns out to be quite good on the bass), but all things considered, they're better than one might have expected.

Supposedly chronicling the history of the fictional British band from the '60s to 1984, Spinal Tap cranks out melodies that you'll be surprised at, as they stick with you for a long time. "Hell Hole" is a surprisingly catchy number with a killer chorus, though the premise of the song - discovering your squallid lifestyle is better than the high life - is a little weak. ("Hell Hole" could also have been the documentary of my first bachelor apartment in River Grove, Illinois.)

"Big Bottom," a perfectly raunchy track that is sure to make members of the PMRC squirm in discomfort, is too funny to be taken seriously, and has a powerful bass riff that will burrow its way into your head. Likewise, "America" and "Rock And Roll Creation" have the catchy riffs and solid songwriting necessary to make these tracks work. And this is supposed to be a parody? Even "(Listen To The) Flower People," a track supposedly from Spinal Tap's psychedelic phase, is a pretty accurate rendition of what some of the music was like at that time.

Still, not everything on Spinal Tap works that well. "Sex Farm" is a track I could never warm up to, despite the fact I've seen the movie and listened to this album at least a dozen times each. And one "early" track, "Gimme Some Money," has enough of the early '60s kitsch to it, but both the lyrics and the guitar solo needed more than a coat of paint.

McKean, Guest and Shearer might be actors in their real professions, but Spinal Tap shows that their musical abilities are nothing to laugh at. For a comedy work, this album is seriously good.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B+



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Polygram Records, and is used for informational purposes only.