Shaun Cassidy: Wasp (1980)

This is definitely one of the stranger albums in my collection. Which isn't to say it's a great album, or even a very good one, but it's at least an interesting and weirdly fascinating one.

Folks of my generation presumably remember Cassidy as the 70s teen heartthrob who, after starting out on the Hardy Boys tv series, released a series of bubblegum, teen-oriented Top 40 singles and albums (and, later, some dreadful disco music). By the time of this, his fifth and final LP, his star had faded, but rather than calling it a day, he brought in wunderkind Todd Rundgren, who produced, wrote half the songs, and played on the album alongside his band Utopia. The remaining half of the album is comprised of covers, some to be expected, some... not.

The lead off track is Cassidy's take on "Rebel Rebel," which makes sense given that, for the entire record, he drops the boyish vocals of past work and takes on a Bowie-like lower-register croon. As Bowie covers go, it's... well, not great. Kind of a Stars On 45 dance-mix reinterpretation. But it's amusing. Slightly better is his cover of the Talking Heads' "The Book I Read," an interesting selection that sounds like 80s Bowie (or maybe Roxy Music) making David Byrne sound even stranger.

The whole album, covers and originals, has a somewhat dated early 80s new wave/new romantic feel, synth heavy and not exactly organic. His take on the Animals' "It's My Life" verges on goth, a dirge-like bombast that sounds more like Bauhaus than the work of a former teen pin-up (while the cover of Ian Hunter's "Once Bitten Twice Shy" replaces the original's glam-pop with a similar goth aesthetic). The album's stand-out is his cover of the Who's "So Sad About Us," which infuses a bit of jangly pop into the album's darker vibe.

As for the album's originals? I dunno. "Cool Fire" is ok, maybe a cheesy new wave stab at Television. There are some lukewarm faux Spandau Ballet-styled ballads. And then there's the title track, which is batshit crazy.

Ok, it's not a good album, but that's probably more an indictment of Todd Rundgren than Cassidy, who at least deserves some points for taking some risks.

Here's "The Book I Read":

...and "Rebel Rebel":