Jeez, what an unsettling album! For the life of Reilly I can’t understand how Deep Purple evidently lost the macho glory which made their In Rock LP such an Owsleyan mindfuck. Now that was an album — its kamikaze guitar and organ runs sped toward insanity with blazing intensity. It was rather melodic, too, for those who keep track of such things. The group’s tried thrice to renew the assault on the senses, but each time they’ve come off like a fouled imitation of their earlier selves. Worse still, each outing displays less of the banzai spirit that once had critics crying asshole things like “power to the purple.”
Who Do You Think We Are! sounds so damn tired in spots that it’s downright disconcerting. Now you might think it’s impossible for a bunch of heavy-metal mashers to sound like they’ve ODed on Sominex, but rest assured, this album will prove you wrong. Remember the two-stage construction of DP’s earlier boogie beasts — songs like “Speed King,” “Flight of the Rat,” and “Hard Lovin’ Man”? And how the basic bitch of a riff served only as a launching pad for the Blackmore-Lord flights to musical nirvana? Don’t waste any time looking for anything nearly as awe-inspiring here; the band seems to just barely summon up enough energy to lay down the rhythm track, much less improvise. Can metal-men have iron-poor blood?
“Get more specific,” you’re probably yelling by now. Okay, let’s take “Woman From Tokyo,” which a Kinney corporal informed me “would put Deep Purple over the top.” It starts out nicely enough with lots of Yardbirdian instrumental interplays, then moves on to a meaty riff. After that, it’s strictly Flounder City — no development, no direction, damnit, not even any flash. It’s more or less one massive riff lumbering along — Bull Angus gone berserk, if you will “Mary Long” isn’t much different, though Blackmore does at least get to take a perfunctory solo. Funny, but for such an admitted superstar (the liner notes are full of quotes like “I think I could wipe the floor up with most guitarists”). Ritchie seems conspicuously subdued here Could it possibly have something to do with the fact that bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Paice mixed the sound? Ah, the fragile egos of rock musicians!
Now if I really wanted to get picky, I could point to the “join the crowd” moog solo on “Rat Bat Blue.” What a cliched instrument the synthesizer has turned out to be — even boogie monsters like TYA’s Chick Churchill are playing around with it. And speaking of Churchill, Lord manages to sound just like him on the Purple blooze, otherwise known as “Place In Line.” It’s sorta like a sound sleep imitating a coma. And then (then) there’s “Smooth Dancer,” where they rhyme “dancing” with “pregnancy” in a chauvinistic power play that curdled every drop of Women’s Lib blood in my veins.
Well, at least “Super Trouper” ain’t half bad, but how can you possibly fault a song with such a nifty title? For that matter, how can you slam a group that makes an album like In Rock? It’s easy when their three follow-ups get you wondering if it’s the same group — real easy.