Voltaire: Ooky Spooky


CD Review by Gregory S. Burkart

Anyone who smirks when they hear the ?Goth? label applied to a performer may dismiss a rare find like Voltaire out of hand... and that's a shame, because the common stereotype of the pretentious, humorless clove-smoking children of the night is often poked gleefully with a sharp stick by this multi-talented icon of that very culture. Like his namesake, an ever-winking satirist who gleefully throws stones at the stained-glass walls of his own gloomy abode, Voltaire repeatedly demonstrates that living among the shadows is a regular hoot if you're doing it right. I mean, this is the guy who introduced us to ?Deady,? the world's most emotionally-damaged plush toy.

Representing a return to full-on comedy performance for the singer-author-animator (following a brief excursion into moody semi-seriousness with Then And Again), this spicy confection is self-described as ?A Halloween Party in a Jewel Box,? and if you're not too easily offended, that's pretty much what you get with Ooky Spooky - one shy of a dozen nutty nightclub grooves about undead whores, cannibal orgies, marital death-duels, sci-fi sodomites, and a splotch of necrophilia for seasoning. Think of it as lounge lizard music with actual lizards ? big ones, which frequently molest and eat the guests.

Although Ooky Spooky is chock full of the irreverent joy that made songs like ?When You're Evil? and ?What God Thinks? such blasphemous fun, this time the songs are shaped into a kind of fiendish fiesta, complete with a Mariachi backing band and Tijuana Brass-style riffs. Many of the tunes here play handily into the whole Mexi-macabre theme ? depicted quite literally in the catchy ?Day Of The Dead,? with images of bat-filled pi?atas, midnight processions and cerveza-swilling specters.

Deceptively innocent at the outset with the Danny Elfman-esque ?Land Of The Dead? - a track originally written for the Cartoon Network series The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy - the album takes a hard left into playfully obscene territory with the very next song, ?Zombie Prostitute,? a title which pretty much says all it needs to say about the song's content... and yes, the old joke about the hooker and the leper makes an appearance, right on cue.

As always, Voltaire's satiric rapier takes a stab at the familiar targets of God (or the lack thereof), death and cruel fate for the sardonic track ?Dead,? and gets a morose helping hand from the Dresden Dolls' Amanda Palmer for ?Stuck With You? - a wicked anti-love song about a mutually-loathing married couple whose unbreakable vow doesn't stop them from dishing out increasingly violent punishments on one another. Great stuff, and Palmer's smoky voice is a perfect match for Voltaire's devilishly arch style.

Further political incorrectness is the order of the day for the vicious ?Bomb New Jersey? - a double-barreled comedy assault on the locale where the artist spent his troubled youth misunderstood, ostracized, persecuted and abused by the kind of people who willingly purchase and wear acid-washed jeans ? culminating in a heartfelt plea for any military force, in the name of good or evil, to spare just a few minutes to lob a nuclear device in their general direction.

Tracks like ?Reggae Mortis? and ?Hell In A Handbasket,? though musically in sync with the overall flavor of the album, are played more for wry chuckles rather than milk-through-the-nose guffaws... unlike the supreme masterpiece ?Cantina,? an X-rated country-western homage to the sexual proclivities of the denizens from a certain Tatooine watering hole, who have their way with the hapless narrator's nether regions by wielding a lightsaber in ways not even Vader could have imagined.

This is far and away the stand-out party track here, and in my opinion one of the funniest and filthiest fan put-ons ever recorded (in the spirit of his Star Trek-themed EP, Banned on Vulcan). I won't spoil the fun other than to say that the word ?stormtrooper? rhymes with ?pooper,? and you can pretty much work out the concept from there. If you can't... well, then you might want to avoid this one, or you will be scarred for life. I had this one on repeat for who knows how long.

Wookie perversions aside, is it worth owning overall? Well, look at it this way: some folks like to think of Halloween as a brief period when dark whimsy becomes somewhat appropriate ? the only time of year you can show up at work dressed as a giant dildo and not get forcibly removed by security. Others, however (myself, for instance), consider it the one time of year when the rest of the world catches up to us. Voltaire's music actually suits both parties ? the former will dust it off for a week or two, along with the plastic skeletons and the Dracula lunchbox. The latter will keep it in perpetual iPod rotation, mixed with Mozart's Requiem, the entire Skinny Puppy back catalog and Christopher Walken's recitation of ?The Raven.? Yeah, that's me pretty much. I guess I'm saying this is one fiesta I plan on returning to more often than once a year.

And just for the record, I never put away that Dracula lunchbox.