Inside The Electric Circus

W.A.S.P.

Snapper Music, 1986

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/06/1999

After riding the creative high of their second album The Last Command, one could have expected it would be tough for W.A.S.P. to live up to the expectations of a similar album to follow. Likewise, after struggling through life as the poster boys for the witch hunt known as the PMRC, one would have expected Blackie Lawless and crew to put out and album that would have even made Tipper Gore squirm.

This takes us to 1986 and the band's third album, Inside The Electric Circus. On this album, everything catches up to Lawless and company. Sporting the third different lineup of W.A.S.P. in as many albums (out is guitarist Randy Piper; in is bassist Johnny Rod with Lawless moving to guitar), the band falters for the first time in their career. And while the end result still shows some of the brilliance that this band was never given the credit for, it is a disappointment.

The opening concept of a bizarre circus atmosphere ("The Big Welcome," "Inside The Electric Circus") isn't a terrible concept, but the overall material leaves something to be desired. Musically, Lawless, Rod, lead guitarist Chris Holmes and drummer Steve Riley were still one of the better metal bands out there in the mid-'80s. But as for the material, it just wasn't living up to the high standards that W.A.S.P. had previously established for themselves. Tracks like "Restless Gypsy," "Shoot From The Hip" and "King Of Sodom And Gomorrah" just don't pack the musical punch that some listeners might have expected.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Then again, the material isn't nearly as raunchy as some people would like you to believe it is. There's some suggestion, but this material could be the tamest stuff that W.A.S.P. had put out to date, almost challenging the PMRC to find fault with it. (Good thing that the song "D.B. Blues" was a b-side until the re-release of this disc last year, otherwise the Washington wives would have been crawling the walls.) One problem: it almost seems like Lawless and crew aren't quite sure what to do with a tamer version of themselves.

There's still a good amount of original songwriting on Inside The Electric Circus that shows why W.A.S.P. was being appreciated by the fans as one of the better metal acts. "9.5.-N.A.S.T.Y." is a pretty good song, as are "I'm Alive" (the first evidence of the deeper thinking, more angry side to Lawless's music - the side that would come out on The Crimson Idol and K.F.D.) and "Mantronic".

The other thing that sticks out in my mind are the use of cover songs. It was one thing for W.A.S.P. to cover "Mississippi Queen" as a b-side to a single from The Last Command, but to include two covers on their next album? To the untrained eye, it might seem like the songwriting well was drying up, or that the band was looking to just fill up the album. (In reality, the covers of "I Don't Need No Doctor" and "Easy Living" are pretty good.)

And while this lineup of W.A.S.P. would be their most stable for a while, it does sound like some of the magic that was in the lineup from The Last Command is gone. This is not a knock on Lawless's guitar work or Rod's bass playing, but there is some spark missing that is not easily re-created. (Lawless and crew would eventually re-capture that spark.)

Inside The Electric Circus is not a terrible album, but it is a letdown compared to the previous works of W.A.S.P., and it was possibly a sign for the boys to slow things down a pinch.

Rating: C+

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© 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 Snapper Music, and is used for informational purposes only.