Kilroy Was Here (1983)


1.Mr. Roboto 2.Cold War 3.Don't Let It End 4.High Times 5.Heavy Metal Poisoning 6.Just Get Through This Night 7.Double Life 8.Haven't We Been Here Before 9.Don't Let It End (Reprise)

 

It had been longer than two years since the last time a Styx album hit the market. This was a long time between releases back then, and in the days before MTV and the Internet, no one was really sure what was going on. Add to the fact that Styx was coming off the pinnacle of their career after Paradise Theatre made the itch almost unbearable. When D.J.s across the land finally announced the long awaited Styx single was here, anticipation was unbearably thick. Ears were tilted, palms were sweating... and then we all heard: "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto!", "Kilroy!! Kilroy!!!". Eyebrows were then raised. What the hell is this!!??

Well. No one could argue with the direction Dennis DeYoung ever took with this band. He had been the decision maker in the band all along, and his guidance had led the Styxers right to the gold at the end of the rainbow. The point was probably raised: "Well...he is usually right about these things....". So even though others were reluctant, they went along with the grand project. This time, however, it was not to be. Wanting to push the band to even greater dimensions, DeYoung constricted an incredibly elaborate concept for this record, and even had the band make a very expensive eleven minute film that would precede the concerts starring band members in key roles of his production. The album would then be the main event of the prologue on celluloid. The "Kilroy" story? Well, it was pretty silly. Rock and Roll music is banned in the future because of it's (alleged) deadly effects on youth. The medium is censored, and Kilroy (played by DeYoung) is the jailed rock and roller. If you don't know the rest of the story, believe me, it's not necessary. Just throw in evil C-3PO-like Robots ("robotos"), fried chicken, a charismatic Tipper Goreish leader of the crusade (played by J.Y.- I'm serious!), and the good natured blonde headed kid (Shaw) to rescue the aged rocker.

As grandiose as all this was, it's obvious that other than DeYoung, the band just wasn't into it. Further irony is that only half of the songs or so even deal with this silly concept. (Some diehards may argue otherwise, but you'd really have to stretch the imagination to get some of these tunes to fit in with DeYoung's stroy). Even DeYoung himself croons his Babe-like top ten smash Don't Let it End which is nothing but a typical (but pretty good) love song. What does this have to do with robots? Thankfully nothing. Tommy Shaw, as usual, made no secret that he was pulled kicking and screaming into this project, and his songs have nothing to do with Kilroy. Further irony is that Shaw turns out the best effort among the trio. None of his songs were "hits", and the casual fan won't remember them, but probably every Styx fan holds them in high regard. His Cold War suffers a little from all the computerized pings of early eighties music, but Just Get Through This Night has to be just about the best thing he's ever written. Like Love in the Midnight from Cornerstone , he bears his wretched soul for all to see and feel. Never has there been a better lyric about trying to explain the unexplainable torments of human emotion. His third contribution Haven't We Been Here Before is another sweet piece that seems to only polarize the style of music that Shaw himself seems to say he detests.

Like their last release, James Young has two compositions here, and in all fairness, he at least tries to follow DeYoung's story. It sounded hopelessly silly, however, when heavy metaller Young was belting out a song about the "evils" of heavy metal...in a heavy metal song (this would be, Heavy Metal Poisoning). His other tune, Double Life, is a much slower paced tune, but is very spooky and hallow. This also sounds like it fits with the concept. Is J.Y.'s morally superior protagonist singing about his dark closets? If so, it works better than any other song on the album. If not, he could probably lie and say it did.

Then we come to DeYoung. There probably isn't anyone on the planet who hasn't heard Mr. Roboto by now, and although it made long time lovers of Renegade and Miss America reach for the nearest barf bag, it did crack the top five and it did sell over one million copies. This song fits in with those tunes like "The Macarena" or "Y.M.C.A." - meaning many refuse to admit they like it, but if there's no one else at home, the stereo gets cranked and the shades are probably drawn while you bop around the living room. Adding irony to all this was the fact that the DeYoungless Styx that formed almost two decades later actually included this song (or a portion of it) in the set list! His other piece High Time has almost the exact opposite effect of Double Life in that he tries too hard to spell out what he's singing about and so the piece suffers and falls pretty flat.

Styx took this ambitious album on the road to mixed results. Many felt is was rock theatre at its best (which it was), but many attending concerts wanted to hear music and not this overblown story being sung/acted by band members (which it also was). Needless to say, it broke up the band. Tommy Shaw quit in the middle of the tour and wouldn't sing again with Styx for thirteen years. It was still a fun ride while it lasted.



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