Graded on a Curve:
Shaun Cassidy,
Wasp

If David Bowie was so weird, how come former teen hottie Shaun Cassidy’s cover of “Rebel Rebel” on his 1980 LP Wasp makes the Bowie original sound so … tame? Sure, Bowie’s half-pooch self on the cover of 1974’s Diamond Dogs is what you might call weird even though his dog dick’s been airbrushed out, but Shaun doesn’t have to resort to such gimmickry–he looks just like his White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (as in WASP!) self on the cover of Wasp, although he seems understandably nervous cuz he’s got a stinging insect on his face.

Often derided as a last ditch effort to resuscitate Cassidy’s moribund career, Wasp was produced by Utopian Todd “I’ll produce something/anything” Rundgren, who might have turned the album into a New Wave Bubble Freak masterpiece. Unfortunately, Sir Wizard and True Star stopped short at “Rebel Rebel” (more about which later), and filled the rest of the LP with what are largely workman-like covers of largely pedestrian material.

Wasp includes three Utopia songs–exactly three more, if you do the math, than any sane listener wants to hear. None deviate much from the originals, which is to say they’re once, twice, three times redundant, which in corporate terms means they’d be given severance packages and shown the door. Except wait: the title track is fascinating indeed: Shaun shouts “Hey cowboy, didn’t you used to be a faggot bartender in the West End?” (the lyric sheet reads “packy back” but I know homophobia when I hear it ), then confuses New Wave with punk (“You’re looking mighty New Wave/I hardly recognize you with that shish kabob through your face.”) In short it’s a hoot, in large part because it betrays poor Todd’s complete ignorance of current events.

The other two Rundgren tracks are useless: on “Selfless Love” Cassidy gets his heart broken and threatens to jump off a mountain, which is a pretty selfless thing to do if you ask me. “Pretending” gives Shaun the chance to get all theatrical, and gives the impression he’s auditioning for a role in Cats.

On Animal’s cover “It’s My Life” Shaun sounds more Iggy Pop than Iggy does. On the Talking Heads’ “The Book I Read” he can’t decide which David (Bowie? Byrne?) he wants to be. On the just okay cover of Ian Hunter’s “Once Bitten Twice Shy” Cassidy is a doppelganger for David Johansen.

Cassidy’s take on The Who’s “So Sad About Us” is a barely adequate substitute for the original, but then again Townsend called himself a substitute, which makes Shaun a substitute for a substitute making you wonder who’s going to come around next and make himself a substitute for a substitute for a substitute. As for“Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over),” the only thing interesting about it is it came out four years before Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” which means Andrew Ridgeley must have fucked up and George Michael slept in.

But the album’s tour de force is “Rebel Rebel.” which is better than the Bay City Rollers’ version and guaranteed to beat Gordon Lightfoot’s version should he ever get around to recording one. You get these in-your-face hand claps to make sure you’re awake and lots of synth squiggles and Chipmunks backing vocals on top of which Cassidy returns to channeling Iggy. But the best part comes at the end, when Shaun delivers a great monologue then screams, “That ain’t no reason we can’t share love!” No mention of quaaludes, unfortunately, which comes as no surprise seeing as how Shaun’s a nice boy. But had he gone for it he might have opened the door for other squeaky-clean artists to go for it–if you don’t want to hear Mumford & Sons cover “I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” I gotta wonder about you.

Wasp is Cassidy’s last album of date, which is a shame seeing as how he could have really gone places with an album of hardcore covers produced by Kim Fowley. Then again, it’s never too late. I would love to hear his take on the Angry Samoans’ “They Saved Hitler’s Cock.”

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B-

This entry was posted in The TVD Storefront. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text