Back To Black

Sounds Magazine

Pandora's Box Album Review

Like the blackest of recurring nightmares, Jim Steinman reappears 12 years on from 'Bat Out Of Hell' with an almost exact reiteration of that gothic monstrosity's larger-than-life obsessions.

So what? Steinman never cared much for credibility - in-credibility, now that's more the ticket - and it's surley only right for him to remain utterly over the top and on his own. In the realms of rock theater, Jim Steinman is unique.

It's perhaps just as well. If the creator of a record so outrageously epic and pompous as 'Original Sin (The Natives Are Restless Tonight)' were to lie on the psychoanalyst's couch he would burn a hole in the fabric. Steinman is probably no more hung-up on sex than the next male but by putting such words as, "And whenever you tried to hurt me/I just hurt you even worse/And so much deeper" ('It's All Coming Back To Me Now'), into the mouth of Elaine Caswell, a young woman with "the looks of an avenging angel" (thanks Jim), he's hardly likely to get the benefit of anyone's doubt. Caswell is joined in Pandora's Box by three other female singers of varying lasciviousness for more state-of-the-world gems like "There's no such thing as safe sex/When it comes to loving you".

How far is Jimbo's tongue embedded in his (or someone else's) cheek? One hopes, and suspects, considerably. Just like his recent video director Ken Russell, Jim Steinman has never really outgrown his boyhood fantasies and so 'Original Sin' oozes with camp scenes on beaches, castles falling into sand and some skin-scraping puns - "All the seconds go on forever/But the third and the fourth ones are even better" from the cutely titled 'Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere)' takes the ultimate biccy.

Steinman manages to simultaneously laugh at and revel in the histrionics of his chosen genre, and either response is appropriate from the listener. His skills as composer are evident in the various orchestral interludes, so it's tragic that he should set himself up for wholly justified vilification with a version of The Doors' 'Twentieth Century Fox', easily the worst cover committed to vinyl - and yes, I do remember ELP's 'Jerusalem'.

Apparently, the next Jim Steinman project is an Electric Light Orchestra album. Now only a true genius would attempt that!