Everybody stop. What the hell is going on? Someone has taken Rob Zombie out of the world of Spookshow and placed him in some happy, clappy, “rock is back” kind of band. Educated Horses is the new Rob Zombie album. Ooh, yes, cower in fear, for the heavily made-up, dreadlocked Zombie has transformed into a cowboy with a new voice.
As a long-time listener of Rob Zombie, I was looking forward to this album with incomprehensible excitement. I don’t listen to Rob Zombie to get something out of his music so to speak; I listen to his music because it’s trashy fun with great metal riffs and an entertaining homage to horror movies. These elements have been greatly reduced for Educated Horses, so much so that even your own mother will be in love with Mr Zombie at the end of this album.
This is not to say that an artist can’t change. I’m all for change – if it’s good. Educated Horses falls a little short of the good changes in Zombie’s music.
The album opens with “Sawdust in the Blood,” which is really just a pointless opening track. Unlike The Sinister Urge in which we are told we are sinners and that we are going to a painful everlasting fiery hell, “Sawdust in the Blood” tells me nothing other than I’m in for an unexpected ride. Judging from the track, I’d say that I’m probably not going to like this ride – much.
Just when I think I’m going to fall off my chair in boredom, “American Witch” kicks in. The song is Rob Zombie heaven and you will immediately notice the change in Zombie’s voice. It’s less gravely then on previous endeavors, which means listeners can actually understand him. However, “American Witch” doesn’t turn out the way it’s all cracked up to be. First of all, it goes for a tad bit long. When you think it should have ended at least two minutes ago, it keeps going blurring into the background. Of course, we won’t forget the most important annoyance of this song – the clapping.
Once you think the clapping madness is over when the next track “Foxy, Foxy” begins, you start losing faith in Rob Zombie. Skip ahead a few more tracks and notice this motif, the clapping, can be heard in five of the 11 songs. Considering that two of the 11 songs are just filler tracks, this means that five out of the nine actual songs contain clapping. That’s probably four too many songs that involve the clapping on a Rob Zombie record. Clapping is something you associate with a Franz Ferdinand record or a Jet song, not Rob Zombie.
“Foxy, Foxy” as well as “The Scorpion Sleeps” are poppy and automatically catch the attention of new fans. Once again, his voice is less threatening and electronic dubs are absent. In place of this absence is the work of former Marilyn Manson guitarist’s John 5, providing some of the most amazing guitar work on a Zombie album to date. John 5 also shines on the epic, “Death of it All.”
“100 Ways” is an outstanding track for Rob Zombie. Lasting a little under 2 minutes, the Desert Sessions-influenced track acts as an intermission. It is one of the standout tracks on this album. “100 Ways” sounds different from anything Zombie has ever done – in a good way. The song demonstrates good implementation of piano and beautiful guitar work and you’ll wish it went for a little longer.
After you think all is well in the world of horses that happen to be educated, Zombie jumps up and blows your ears off with “Let it all Bleed Out.” This song is one of the more memorable tracks for a few reasons; one is that it is the angriest and brutal-sounding track on the record and probably the truest form of Zombie on here. Another reason is that it has some sort of Papa Roach/Linkin Park riff thing going on after the 2-minute mark and that’s not really a good thing. It sounds out of context with the song, or maybe that’s what Zombie was aiming for.
Getting back to the change in his voice, I have to rip the shit out of Zombie just a little here for “Ride.” For one thing, he adds “baby” at the end of a couple of the sentences in verses like he’s in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and he sings like a choir boy who’s been smoking way too many cigarettes. However, the song is tender up until the point where he growls “Ride,” accompanied by a roaring guitar riff. The transition with his voice in this song foreshadows great things vocally for Zombie if he can get his act together. This track points to a move forward and it will be interesting to see if he goes further with it in his future work.
“The Devil’s Rejects” sounds like a song that was just thrown on the album for good measure. It’s not supposed to be a serious song and when Zombie sings, “Hell doesn’t want them / Hell doesn’t need them / Hell doesn’t love them / This world rejects them” you can’t help but laugh. At least the House of 1000 Corpses song “Pussy Liquor” and the namesake track on The Sinister Urge created the atmosphere of a nightmarish horror film. The stripped down and country inspired “The Devil’s Rejects” is perfectly suited to Zombie’s feature film however, it doesn’t make any kind of impact on the listener and is easily forgettable.
Zombie moves forward in Educated Horses by stripping down the tracks, getting rid of most of the horror movie sound bytes, adding in some awesome guitar work, improving his vocals and lyrics and including more instruments into the mix like pianos and strings. While Hellbilly Deluxe and The Sinister Urge go hand in hand with their electronic dubs and horror movie sound bytes, Educated Horses stands on its own.
Although longtime listeners can probably appreciate that he’s taking a step forward in his music and mixing it up a little, it falls short of an impressive album. At only 39 minutes long, it’s not long enough or good enough to capture your attention. There are barely any songs on this album that will stay with you long after you listen to them. You can see what Zombie is trying to do with this album, but it doesn’t quite work for him this time.