Old-timers David Bowie and Neil Young might like to keep up with the times, but for Blue Öyster Cult, it's the '70s all over again.
Not only is the band's new album, Curse of the Hidden Mirror, packed with big rock production, indulgent vocals and flashy guitars, it's named after a 1970 song the band wrote before it became Blue Öyster Cult for a record that was never released. That album, St. Cecilia: The Elektra Recordings, is only now available for collectors on Rhinohandmade.com.
"Back then we were called the Stalk-Forrest Group, and we were signed to Elektra," vocalist Eric Bloom said last month in New York. "We were more of a freeform Grateful Dead-type band back then and we did this record, but the label didn't want to release it. So it sat there for 20 years until Rhino got Elektra's vault, found the tapes and decided to put it out."
Whether it was the Stalk-Forrest Group or the recently remastered editions of the band's early albums Blue Öyster Cult (1972), Tyranny & Mutation (1973), Secret Treaties (1974), and Agents of Fortune (1976), all containing bonus tracks and set for June 26 release (see "Blue Oyster Cult: Don't Fear The Reissues") Blue Öyster Cult were in a Freedom Rock frame of mind when they entered the writing room in February 2000 to begin working on new material.
"As [guitarist] Buck [Dharma] and I got going, it really started to sound like a classic late '70s album," Bloom said without apology. "So rather than push that away, we embraced it. We're not gonna start turning alternative. We're not gonna rap or scratch. We're not gonna try to be divas. We can't be a 2001 phenomenon."
That's clear enough. But the lazy blues swagger and reggae stabs of "Showtime," the surging riffs and ominous vibe of "The Old Gods Return" and the guitar-driven euphoric pop of "Here Comes That Feeling" show that this retro group refuses to roll over and rely strictly on its back catalog.
"I actually think we're a better band now than we were 30 years ago," Bloom said. "Everybody's singing better and playing better, and we're a lot more streetwise. Also, I don't think we've mellowed a bit. Maybe Creem magazine won't nominate us as the Best New Band of the Year like they did in 1972. But maybe we'll be the Best Old Band of the Year in 2001."
Lending Blue Öyster Cult a hand on Curse of the Hidden Mirror were band founder and music scribe Richard Meltzer, who co-penned "Stone of Love," and science fiction author John Shirley ("Eclipse Corona," "City Come A-Walkin' "), who wrote lyrics for eight of the 11 songs on the record.
"He's a good friend of ours," Bloom said. "He was a big fan, and our ex-manager Sandy Pearlman, who used to write lyrics for us, said we should talk to him about writing. Ever since then, he's been e-mailing us lyrics and they've been working out great."
Thirty-plus years into their career, Blue Öyster Cult remain road warriors. Right now, they're in the middle of their U.S. summer tour, with dates scheduled through the end of August. Bloom said they'll have logged close to 100 shows by year's end.
"We'd just rather play than stay at home," he concluded. "We are very comfortable with this kind of work."