Deep Purple confuses me deeply. Regarded within the highest echelons of British rock, the band has steadily guided a career from the very late-’60s right up to the forthcoming album, Infinite. And yet, unless you are a Deep Purple fan, you possibly know only two songs and, more likely, only know one of those two. I’m sure you know which one I’m talking about. Casual observers probably have no idea that David Coverdale was once a vocalist for the group, prior to striking out on his own with Whitesnake.
Further, even with a resurgence in the 1980s thanks to albums like The House of Blue Light and Perfect Strangers, unless you are a DP fan you know nothing of any of these songs. Given this, if you do the benchmarking, Deep Purple ought to have the same level of influence as, say, American counterparts like Iron Butterfly and Vanilla Fudge, not Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, yet they are frequently intermingled.
Therefore, when a new Deep Purple album is announced, I find I will give it a lot more consideration than I ordinarily would another longtime band, pretty much on the basis that it seems like I ought to. For some reason, there is a pedigree involved that demands that level of response. Problem is that I don’t often feel like the music itself warrants the same.
Oh, the work is competent enough and the production by uber-producer Bob Ezrin is sufficiently “rock.” There’s no denying that Deep Purple has always been a high-functioning rock combo, but the songs don’t stick to the wall the way they should. (Full disclosure: I actually like the ’80s output, so I’m treading into a place where hardcore DP fans have already staked out a counterargument.) I can’t tell you anything about Purpendicular. I though Now What?! was interesting when I listened to it, but after it, I haven’t gone back.
“Time For Bedlam,” the first single from Infinite, isn’t going to help. First off, it’s coming from an unfortunate place — the now-weary trope about being undermined by the machine, needing to break out, returning to show all you young folk what the hell this is supposed to be about. Every successful album by a legacy act in the past ten years, be it a reunion or not, has consciously avoided breaking the fourth wall of announcing “we have returned to fight the system,” and instead just done the thing. The very nature of drawing attention to one’s self in this manner betrays a lack of understanding of the problem.
More unfortunate is that this band still has power in it and everyone sounds very good. The actual trappings of “Time For Bedlam” aside from the 2112/Kilroy Was Here/Rip Van Winkle veneer hangs together. Vocalist Ian Gillan comports himself well, but what he says causes eye rolling. For me, it is unfortunate because I was expecting this single to draw me in, not to give me another reason to pass the new album by. I suspect that’s what I’ll do though.