Cyberpunk Review » Cyberpunk: Billy Idol

March 4, 2007

Cyberpunk: Billy Idol

Music Review By: Rover

Year: 1993

Artist: Billy Idol

Written by: Billy Idol

Label: EMI Special Products

Cyberpunk Album Screen Capture



SFAM NOTE: We welcome new reviewer “Rover,” who uploaded this music album review into the Review Forum. If others are interested in joining the review team, please post a message in the review forum.


Overview: I guess that everybody has heard about this album? It was released in 93, under the title Cyberpunk by a guy who had until here made only rock’n roll stuff. Some said that Billy used the Cyberpunk thing only for the hype effect, some cyberpunks enjoy this album…Personally, this is how I discovered CP, so I’ll always cherish this album Razz

Well, the question is, is this album CP or not?
Let’s analyze each of the songs…


1) Wasteland: ~lyrics~ a few lines are clearly CP, and promote hacking: “In VR law, computer crime, so sublime…” but the rest of the song has a lot of possible interpretations. It’s about a sort of missionary who wants to bring religion and hope into ‘the wasteland’…This reminds me of this street preacher in the movie Johnny Mnemonic. Perhaps the wasteland is supposed to be a futuristic shanty town, or to symbolize the fall of human relations because of the rise of technology? Anyway, I don’t really think that religion and CP have a lot of things in common. Here, I have the feeling that Billy wants to bring back to human life the cyberpunks??

Tune: not CP…maybe a few elcetronical sounds.

2) Shock to the System : ~lyrics~ Yeah, Billy wants to make a revolution! Don’t forget that in cyberpunk there’s punk…

Tune: Billy added some sounds (flamethrower, police sirens…) to a guitar tune, and this sounds inventive enough to be CP to me.

Music Video: if this is not CP, then what the hell is CP? Machines, riot, cops, special effects made by Stan Winston (he worked on the Terminator movies)…


3) Tomorrow People: ~lyrics~ this song evokes to me a post-apocalyptic future (World War III, a scifi story/a dirt colored sky…), but it could also be about video games: “I like to fight, I kill global oppression, if I quit, no hope of redemption”…Anyway, the sadness and the despair are CP: “blue eyes crying in the rain”, “I lost my love, lost my hold, I lost my heaven too”…I can picture a replicant from Blade Runner saying that.

Tune: Some strange sounds and voices in the beginning which could be considered CP…


4) Adam in Chains: ~lyrics~ The long intro of the song reminds me of zen philosophy, and the rest doesn’t make much sense…

Music video: Sorry, I can’t find any links anymore, but there was a music video where you saw a guy jacked into virtual reality: that’s CP, but this doesn’t explain the lyrics ^^

Tune: The sounds fit with the music video, and it’s appropriated to listen while surfing


5) Neuromancer: ~lyrics~ The song is a reference to Gibson’t book…the lyrics deliver the same message, so, yep, that’s CP.

Tune: Some strange voice (that remind me of Deus Ex Machina in Matrix), and some electronical sounds…yes, this could be CP, but it sounds less CP than any techno song.


6) Power Junkie: ~lyrics~ A song about drugs…Drugs are important in CP, most of the characters are addicted. But to make a true CP song, I think that Billy should have mixed drugs and technology for example.

Tune: it doesn’t really sound CP. Billy made a big creativity effort toward the end, where you hear a very strange voice, and he also played with the right-left effect (gotta listen to this with headphones)


7) Love Labours On: ~lyrics~ Title says it all, it’s a song about love….I tried really hard, but I can’t see the link with CP

Tune: it sounds like an emo songs…I dunno many Cp guys who are emos, though.

8 ) Heroin: ~lyrics~ Another song about drugs. The line “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine” matches with the Cp philosophy, and near the end of the song you can hear Billy say something like “VR hell heroin”: what if he wasn’t talking about drug addiction, but about computer addiction?

Tune: Some parts of it have a strong techno influence


9) Shangrila: ~lyrics~ A song full of hope and love: somewhere there’s a magic place where we can live and love forever. That’s not CP. But….maybe this magic place is supposed to be cyberspace? If Billy’s seeking this heaven, maybe that’s because his real life is an urban hell?

Tune: a strong oriental influence, but it doesn’t sound CP


10) Concrete Kingdom: ~lyrics~ No hope, no love in our modern world…This is CP. Plus, at one moment, Billy sings “what’s for my son?”: it means that he fears the future, because he knows it’ll be even darker than our world…
tune: Billy worked with the voices once again, making them sound like in a techno song by moments


11) Venus: ~lyrics~ Venus was a goddess…well, how is this supposed to be CP? It’s a personal interpretation, but from a CP point of view, Venus could be an A.I.

Tune: this sounds too classic to be CP


12) Then the Night Comes: ~lyrics~ Err…I can’t see any clear link with CP. Maybe with the underground thing? You know, CP have fun at night and go crazy because they don’t give a damn about authority…I’m not sure that it was what Billy meant however^^

Tune: strange rock’n roll…it sounds cool, but not CP


13) Mother Dawn: ~lyrics~ A sort of hymn to the Nature…this sounds more like a Disney movie than anything CP related.

Tune: a soft song, nothing related with any form of CP music…


Is it Cyberpunk? In the end, 8 songs out of 13 could be considered as CP…that’s more than half, so for me, this album is CP. But I agree that this conception mainly depend on the personal interpretation: I think that some songs unintentionally sounded CP (Venus for example). A few musical elements could be CP, but when you listen to the whole album, the feeling that remain toward the tune isn’t really CP. I don’t think that Billy used the word cyberpunk for the commercial effect because of the Shock to the system music video, which is the proof that he had understood and believed in cyberpunk.

Any opinions about this album? I know that a lot of people hate it.

This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Music by SFAM.


March 5, 2007

SFAM said:

Hi Rover, thanks so much for the review! Hopefully we see many more music albums!

Vesper said:

Nice one :)

I shall force myself to write something perfectly understandable for anyone using English about Fear Factory’s “Demanufacture” - THE industrial metal album ;)

Bionicman said:

I like “Shock To The System”

RockinJack said:

He should have mixed in some dub, methinks.

Cadet SF said:

Billy Idol’s Cyberpunk is definitely cyberpunk despite some of the songs not having strictly cyberpunk themes. Just look at them as Rockerboy love songs (a la Cyberpunk 2020). Also Shock to the System is one of his best hits, and like you said the music video is a perfect example of a cyberpunk video. Billy said in a lot of interviews at the time that he really felt the cyberpunk movement was really important and relevant and that’s why he made the album.

Idolatry said:

GREAT! Very nice review! I love Billy Idol. This album is very special!

March 7, 2007

ADrop said:

I think Cyberpunk that Idol did is a great cd with great tunes. Each tells a story for the futuristic world in some way many awe and others pray not to be.

A the songs Love Labours On, its a bout love and in many books and movies love (the pure love) is gone or forbidden. I think this song tells the story that as a punker we do revolotion against the athourity and their diffrent way to controlle each and everyone of us.

Again Shangrila is a great tune too, of course we seek a place of focus and peace. As this world (or the futuristic) spins faster and afaster. Even for us its harder to follow, as the world slowly crumble (think of wastland) This peace we seek might be in the cyberspace, or just in a perfect point and moment.

Mother Dawn is yet anther of this tunes that shows the one that understood how far ye can go with technology.. there is one more abstract one more complexed that we may never ‘crack’ is Gaia. But the true punker takes this and combind it with the new harcore technology. Making the best thing for everyone as again athority just try to lift itself higer and higher up, keep distant with us on the ground so to say.

Well I could probly go on and on with alot, shrotly to say I think this cd is great. It gives a good feeling, lots of thoughts. For me this is a cyberpunk tunes each and everyone. For it takes up points and ideas from lots of books and movies.. be just small parts within them or the whole book or movie, but still its important as the writer or moviemaker do have their ideas and thoughts they want to share..

anways thanks mate to put this up.. and show the vidoes, gaw have i missed them :)

May 21, 2007

bigdog said:

clearly people are missing the cyber inthe cyberpunk title. cyberpunk is not refering to the rpg, but to his status a a punk rocker and his cd which was one of the first enhanced cd,s to use for your pc so in my opinion the rpg is cool but this album has nothing to do with it

August 19, 2007

The Four Eras of Cyberpunk said (pingback):

[…] represents, until Time Magazine’s cover article “Cyberpunk” in February 1993 or Billy Idol’s “Cyberpunk” CD in July 1993. That year, the term and the movement was no longer underground; It was now injected […]

February 18, 2008

Lidia said:

I love this album. I love Billy Idol :*

April 9, 2009

Ryoma said:

This is a very good album, I’m enjoying it now. Still it must have disappointed BI fans when it come out in ‘93. I bought it in ‘94 because I was interested in CP and I liked a lot the Shock to The System song and videoclip, but it disappointed me as a whole album. But now, about 15 years later, the songs come from the shuffle of my iPod ad I can definitely say that this is a great album, I’m finally happy that I got it. I totally reassessed it. :)

April 29, 2009

typo said:

Well as an old, long time Idol-Fan back in 93 this album was a bit strange to me……………on the other hand: Billy had the “BALLS” to do such an album: If you love or hate Billy Idol, there is one thing he never did: Copy himself and his music over and over again!!! If you listen to his 6 solo records not one of them sounds the same, and that is great! He always uses differend music styles (Rock, Punk, Diso, Blues, Techno, Pop etc) and mixed them together, to that special “Idol-Sound” To me Cyberpunk is 75% Cyberpunk and 25 % a Commercial-Record……..well it was never a commercial sucsess.

No Artist with a Punk, Rock, Pop-Backround or whatever came out with a album like Cyberpunk!!! This record may was ahed of it times, and i beleive if it would be released now it would be a huge hit!

Anyway i listen to this record right now, and it is a great pice of modern music! BILLY RULES!!!

typo said:

i feel sorry for my badass-english!!!

April 30, 2009

studio929 said:

I bought this album back when it came out and I made sure I picked the one that came with the special media disk. Back at that time, being in school and interested in computers and arts, all the new media grabbed my attention.

Man, I love this album and I think it’s one of his best. I’ve still got the disk and this is one CD that doesn’t get lent out. My kids even love the CD.

Typo says it best, though.

I give the last BI album, Devil’s Playground a hardy thumbs-up, too.

August 4, 2009

overmatik said:

This album is, above all, a vanguard work. It was an honest attempt to translate into music the cyberpunk feeling. Maybe if he had done more research on the theme and worked with someone specially in the lyrics it would have been even better.

October 30, 2009

Cyber_robot said:

absolutly damn classic

January 20, 2010

W0nd3r said:

This is interesting album.

Themes of this album reminds me of other band founded by former Generation X members, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and how they used some ‘cyberpunkish’ things in their works. (”There’s smart new art to robbin’ on the highway, that’s hackin’ up the banks an’ a shakin’ up the skyways. It’s a new ambition, it’s a brand new craze and I have to tell you boys that supercrime pays”)

However Billy takes things ways beyond in comparison to Sigues and I wonder how long he kept wondering cyberpunk theme before album got made.

August 3, 2010

L33T said:

Yeah, what IS it with Generation X members and cyberpunk? Did they stay in five star hotels reading Burning Chrome and Snow Crash, and watching Blade Runner instead of getting doped up to their eyeballs in parties?

October 27, 2011

cyber_fuked_90 said:

Come on!! this was a pretty poor review in a way, I wasn’t impressed by how you reviewed it and what you measured each song by. You reviewed it like someone with autism: “This isn’t cyberpunk” or “I tried really hard, but I can’t see the link with CP!”, you’re not actually a robot, throw away your anally-bound logic: you are a colorful human being!! if only you could have made the links with the real world, instead of your ideal of cyberpunk clouding your judgement, this would have been a better review.
It was like you are now in a state where only extreme cyberpunk is the norm, like a heroin addict, your life has sunk to that level, that you are in a mental high where anything slightly below your imaginary line drains you or is unsatisfactory. The album is called CYBERPUNK, that is the context of every song in the album, and it shows, even in ‘love labours on’, it’s cyberpunk, definitely, it’s just a slower jamming pace.
As a human being we all need different levels of emotion and pace, we can’t always be in a constant state of radical-punk, full-speed-ahead, nitrous-oxide-injected-fire blood- we need balance, so that we can make sense of each side. Billy Idol knew this when he was making the album, he is a musician after all, and you can’t be a good musician if you don’t cater to both sides, that’s WHY there are those more serene songs: to cater along side the velocity of the extreme songs for our many wants and desires. I think this was a pretty bang on album, every track has its merits and after listening to the whole thing, you get a sense of the times and the swings and roundabouts of cyberpunk as a scene and a genre. I think it was really affective as he didn’t let down, he really went for this concept of CP and let it fly. I love it and personally if it’s not cyberpunk enough for you, you don’t get what cyberpunk is about really… Ok that’s a bit unfair, obviously you like cyberpunk, but you just need to widen your vision. Cyberpunk to me is about how everyone interprets it individually, but it IS life, and in this life there is a vast, unlimited spectrum of creative possibilities in the genre, as is in life in general. There is a mellow side to everything, a yin and a yang. You cant just shun it and pretend its not there, you gotta embrace it and understand it. So anything remotely cyberpunk is still cyberpunk, and it must be nurtured, not cast off like a leprosy-riddled toe.

December 14, 2011

xych said:

“This video contains content from EMI, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.”

How very cyberpunk…

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