In 1969 The Who released Tommy and the concept of a “Rock Opera” was thrust to the forefront. Six years later Tina Turner would begin to haunt our dreams as the Acid Queen. No, that has nothing to do with the EP I’m talking about, but I needed to remind you of that moment. I digress. Whether Tommy caught your attention, or it was 1977’s Bat Out of Hell (again with the creepy memorable moments put to screen), perhaps it was 1975’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show, any way we reflectit is apparent the rock opera was something that lived in the 1960s and 70s. Pink Floyd tried in the 80s, but we’re not talking about them right now (looking at you Roger) and most recently My Chemical Romance took a swing in 2006; you know, when they were, a young boy.
From the origins in the 60s to present we can almost graph the decline of rock operas in both frequency and quality.
Gary Sohmners, the “King of Pop Culture” (Antiques Roadshow/For What It’s Worth), known for his wealth of knowledge, has taken a profound step to solidify just how far that goes with the visionary three-song Beasties: A Sci-Fi Rock Opera.
A concept EP, a teaser for the full-blown opera tells the story of a hit rock band performing a Central Park concert while promoter/corrupt politician Dick T. Raitor attempts to foil their event and success, the release carries all the whimsy a rock opera demands while broadcasting some serious chops. Featuring Dave Bickler, Chris Farlowe, Barrence Whitfield, Liz Proteau, and co-writter by Bill Holloman, as well as a wealth of others, Beasties: A Sci-Fi Rock Opera isn’t some fly-by-night musicians trying to throw down a melody stuck in their head. It is a solid demonstration in serious musicianship tightly packed into an intensely entertaining three tracks. In fact, I haven’t had this much fun since Peter Frampton as Billy Shears squared off against Aerosmith’s Future Villain Band (FVB for those in the know).
From the rebel attitude of “Even The Cool Succumb,” through the level-setting rock of “Good Old Friend,” into “Stand Up And Be Counted,” the EP shifts to the staunchly political, but not in the shallow weaponized opinions we see in media today. The direct lyrical content of the closing track takes an Orwellian stance crossing into the timeless human condition while feeling appropriately present. If you have a checklist of what makes a rock opera, this EP fills all the boxes and even adds a few.
In three acts, Beasties: A Sci-Fi Rock Opera reaches across generational influence and sound while arching a narrative of “climate destruction by societal corruption.” It rocks, and I mean rocks, it wails, it frames an operatic sense of presence, but all of that aside, Beasties: A Sci-Fi Rock Opera packs so much into the three-track EP you’re going to immediately dive back in. Rock opera isn’t dead or fading, it’s turned into a sci-fi opera. Meatloaf would be proud.