White Zombie’s Astro Creep 2000 – 20 years later

Perhaps You Had Better Start From The Beginning…[evil laugh]

This was the band/record that changed my life – it took a while for that to happen, but it did indeed happen.  It all started 20 years ago…with the release of White Zombie’s Astro Creep 2000.

Flashback to 1995 in Alpharetta, Georgia.  I was a scrawny kid who was just starting to find the music that really pushed my buttons: Pantera, NIN and White Zombie. I wasn’t a goth or heavy metal looking kid – I was (and still am) a t-shirt/jeans and baseball cap kind of guy but I loved heavy guitar or, more specifically, riffs.  My god I love riffs.

My sister actually bought me AC2K on CD a couple days after it came out…believe it or not the parental advisory stickers were an issue for underage kids back then, so my older sister had to buy it on my behalf.  I hurriedly ripped off the shrink wrap, popped the CD in my shitty CD player and listened to the entire record in one setting.

I love to listen to albums/records from start to finish – IF the music allows for it.  AC2K has a really cool start-middle-finish set-up that really appealed to me.  It starts out with a sample of a creepy old guy saying “Perhaps you had better start from the beginning…[evil laugh]” over and over.  It then unleashes into a torrent of pounding industrial guitars and drums. I was hooked!

I’m going to divide the 20 year review of this record into 2 parts:

  1. Music/lyrics
  2. Album art/packaging

MUSIC:

The music is very dark, brooding, with a huge driving back beat behind almost every song.  The guitar sound that J Yuenger has on this record is just phenomenal – there’s a ton of distortion/compression ala Pantera, but there isn’t too much – it’s just right.  It’s just a perfect sound throughout the record.  The bass is ok, but it’s sort of an afterthought.  The drums are pretty much a straight 4/4 pounding, but John Tempesta throws in a few cool jazzy elements and tribal stuff on some songs.  There are tons and tons of samples on this record taken from old movies or tv shows – every song seems to have layers and layers of subtle noises, clicks or other elements that make the songs sound extremely rich and thick.  Here’s the breakdown of each song:

  1. Electric Head Pt. 1
    • The intro in the beginning lulls you into thinking this record will be slow and moody, but it pounds into a driving riff with a crashing 4/4 drum beat.  This is one of my all-time favorite opening tracks.
  2. Supercharger Heaven
    • I think this was the 2nd or 3rd single released, after More Human. Another good groovy track with some well placed samples sprinkled throughout.  Any song that has a lyric like “Jesus lived his life in a cheap hotel on the edge of Route 66…” is good for me.  The call/response chorus of “Devil Man! Devil Man! Calling!” is really cool and pissed off a lot of parents I’m sure.
  3. Real Solution #9
    • This is probably my second favorite song on this album. It’s a very simple song that basically talks about the Manson murders from the 60s.  Another sample intro that pounds into a big guitar riff.  The best part in my opinion is actually the verse structure – because everything drops out except the drums and vocals, and the drums have almost a hip-hop feel to them.
      • Fun fact: Rob Zombie said that he recorded his vocals on this song using a toy Power Rangers walkie-talkie – I can’t make this shit up.
  4. Creature of the Wheel
    • Very underrated track – this is the most plodding song on the record but it’s a good one nonetheless.  Quick drum roll in the beginning and then the song starts chugging.  There’s more samples in the middle of the song too, just to break up the drone.
  5. Electric Head Pt. 2
    • This was a single that got released after SCH, but it’s my least favorite track. It’s very pop sounding, even though it has the standard guitar riff moving through it.  I almost get the feeling that Geffen told WZ that they had to record and release a song like this, and the band begrudgingly agreed to do it…
  6. Grease Pain & Monkey Brains
    • Cool title for a song no doubt.  This one has a slower beat and groove and you can finally hear some bass!  The only guitar is in the chorus really.  I love the chorus and guitar squeal/bends throughout the song.  One of my favorite lyrics on the entire record “Death is on the midway, gambling with souls, moving on a wire…the ace is in the hole.”
  7. I, Zombie
    1. The only song on the record that has a punk rock feel to it.  It’s a very quick, short song with some quick chugging guitar.  The lyrics do a cool thing where Rob states his intentions as a zombie, both good and bad.  The ending of the song sounds like a sample of a champagne cork pop with bubbling and then it leads into….
  8. More Human than Human
    • The song that everyone thinks of when this record gets brought up in conversation…the song that blasted the band into full blow stardom and got them nominated for a Grammy (Thunderkiss 65 was their first hit, thanks to Bevis & Butthead).  This is the song that made me go out and buy the record, because I saw the video on MTV.  The song is basically an ode to the movie Blade runner with a simple yet effective slide guitar hook.  Another great, great lyric: “I am the jigsaw man, I turn the world around with a skeleton hand!” The video for this song is soooo good…the beginning interlude with the guy on the street wearing a sandwich board that reads “The end is near…” Watch it Here.
  9. El Phantasmo & the chicken run blast-o-rama
    1. I love the intro to this song – it sounds a lot like a riff that Pantera would write, but that’s ok. White Zombie toured with Pantera a lot so I’m wondering if they got some ideas from them on the road.  Another song where the verses are basically some grooving drums and vocals – no guitar or bass.
  10. Blur the Technicolor
    • This is a really cool song with lots of cool changes.  The opening is a tribal drum beat for a few measures that turns into a drum build on a standard kit combined with a quick guitar chug.  It then busts into riff with some kind of phaser effect on the guitar that really makes it cool.  The chorus blasts with a “Get it on!” over and over with a sample of Pam Grier in the background.  The breakdown does a really simple but cool guitar riff over RZ screaming “…Am I a God? – You’re god damned right!”
  11. Blood, Milk & Sky
    • This might be one of my all-time favorite songs by any band ever – I know that sounds crazy.  I will say it is the best ending track I have ever heard by any band, and that includes the likes of Tool’s “Third Eye”.  This song is so simple in structure but it is so powerful to listen to…it damn near gives me goose bumps every time I listen to it.  The groove of this song is sooooo good – a simple 4/4 beat at a slow time with simple “da da da da da, da da da da da” guitar riff on the open E string.  The lyrics are hauntingly awesome with so much dark/light mixed in a slurry of beats.  The 1st time you hear the chorus of this song I dare you not to be stunned – I never saw it coming and when I heard the first time.  I believe the lyrics are an ode to the Greek tale “The Odyssey” with the sirens.  I like this song so much I actually recorded a cover version myself:

Album Art/Packaging:

It goes without saying that album art and packaging is dying, and it is a damn shame because the look and feel of a CD, cassette or vinyl record means so much to me.  You weren’t just buying the songs – you were buying the band and the whole package that came with it.  White Zombie’s album art and packaging is some of the coolest stuff that has come along in the past 30 years…it is twisted and doesn’t make any apologies.

Rob Zombie was actually studying illustration at a New York art school when he formed the band, so it’s only natural that he and his band mates did almost all the artwork themselves.  His style is awesome – his drawings look like creepy comic book illustrations…just the way I like it.  There’s a trash rock/old horror movie flair to his layouts and design, another genre I really love as well.  He also uses imagery of deviant sexual overtones – which is creepy, but again – creepy is very cool to me.  I actually have the goofy robot logo from the CD itself tattooed on my back – it was my first tattoo!

I still listen to this record from start to finish every now and then – not many albums have that staying power with me.  Here’s to 20 more years of ghoulish guitar riffs.

-End-

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