Album Review: Rob Zombie - Mondo Sex Head
We sometimes forget that a song is a larger entity than what we hear when we put on a record or turn on the radio. The things we are familiar with are not songs, they are performances, interpretations of something bigger than can be expressed through sound. Even for the artists who write them, songs exist out of their hands, malleable to the whims and inspirations of other people's creativity. We all know songs that have taken on new meaning and new identities when taken up by someone else, but no matter how much the sounds changes, the song is still the song. Voices, instruments, these things are merely conduits by which we are transmitted the message and essence of the song.
Remixes aren't always as dramatic as a radical reinvention, but they do provide an excellent example of the nature of songwriting. Picking and choosing aspects of a performance to keep, and reconfiguring the rest to suit new pursuits, the end result is that the song is still what is had always been. “Mondo Sex Head” is filled with new takes on old songs, but no matter how thick the layer of new paint slathered atop, the core remains the same. At least it's supposed to, if all goes well. But when efforts are taken to ensure all traces of the past are eliminated, no guarantees can be made.
Perhaps Rob Zombie's most known song, “Thunderkiss '65” is the first to get the re-imagination treatment, sped up and layered with electronic percussion. It sounds alien at first, and though the new elements are annoyingly high in the mix, they can only muffle, not silence the song we remember. Zombie's vocals, combined with the mechanical nature of the blips and beats, turn the song into a robotic assault. The very inhumanity of the track is the reason it can stand up to this new identity, a cold and stark take on a lived-in number.
Other tracks fail to bridge the gap between the old and new in as interesting a way. “Living Dead Girl” is brought back to life in name only, the title essentially given to an entirely new composition, betraying the point of this exercise. “Let It Bleed Out” follows this path, doing everything possible to destroy any hint of the song it supposedly represents. These are not remixes so much as rewritings, eviscerating the memories associated with the songs in the pursuit of some supposedly noble calling.
The tracks that allow enough of the original to shine through, like the aforementioned “Thunderkiss '65”, “More Human Than Human”, and “Dragula” are the ones that work the best. They are radically different takes on the songs, but don't strain the credibility of leaving the title unchanged. It's in these tracks that we can accurately assess the ingenuity of the remixers, because it is only when the original can be comprehended that any comparison can be made. It may sound unfair to brand efforts lazy, but the songs that go out of their wait to be completely new constructs are just that; lazy attempts to trick people into hearing their music by attaching a known name to them.
I don't know how to accurately assess what “Mondo Sex Head” has to offer. I'm clearly not the target audience for this material, and it would be impossible for me to discern the good electronic elements from the bad. I'll leave that for people more knowledgeable than myself to decide, preferring to focus on the worth of the project as a whole. Remixes are an interesting proposition, giving a fresh approach to the music we've all heard and absorbed. It's like shifting the prism and seeing an entirely new rainbow. Unfortunately, too often that is not what is being done. Instead, many of these songs bear no connection besides a title, which makes me wonder how it isn't insulting to the memory of the songs being honored. If every part needs to be scrapped and replaced, why not just write new songs?