THE ALBUM -- "Blizzard of Oz," Jet JZ 36812.
THE SHOW -- Sunday at 7:30 at Merriweather Post.
Rock, like Peter Pan, owes its appeal and much of its endurance to a dogged refusal to grow up. The rock and roll generation, those vast numbers who got in on the ground floor to shake their booties with Chuck and Elvis (and later floated to the rafters to shimmy their psyches with John and Mick) have at least conceded to adolescence.
The payoff was pop, rock's semi-mature stepsister who, by constantly renaming and redefining, tries to avoid the simple fact that nothing can change or grow and remain the same. Artists of that generation, from John Lennon to Fleetwood Mac, have addressed this identity crisis, but their attempts never sold as many albums or concert tickets as those over-30 colleagues savvy enough to keep singing about fast cars, loose girls and peer-pressure rebelliousness. "Brooooce!" we bleat over the cold, barren hill, and out leaps our New Jersey knight to herd us back to the warm spot twixt puberty and adulthood.
Now and then, we look around and exclaim how heavy metal -- rock's least socially redeeming, most infantile sibling -- is having some sort of renaissance. This is as earthshaking as the observation that political conservatism is making a comeback, or that Gila Bend, Arizona, is experiencing record temperatures. Heavy metal -- the chaotic conflagration of noise, shock value and puerility -- will go away only when the last pubescent begins consciously planning his/her defloration.
Ozzy Osbourne isn't holding his breath for this event. A heavy-metal animal with bane in his face, his feats are an ominous disgrace. He has altered his rock philosophy not a whit since the days when, as Black Sabbath's lead vocalist, he used to bite the heads off birds during guitar solos -- although now he claims the hapless fowls were already dead. Still warm, maybe?
As frontman for his own group, Blizzard of Oz, Osbourne's new album adheres like surgical crazy glue to the topics that make pre-teens keep shelling out Daddy's dough:
Satanism. Teenlets are a lot less fascinated by Bonzo-style Reaganism than by Exorcist-style Reganism. See album cover, "Revelation (Mother Earth)."
Insanity. This one's a fave, since it's hard to know at 12 whether or not you have it. See album cover, "I Don't Know," "Crazy Train," "Mr. Crowley."
Suicide. Intriguing for those as yet unacquainted with human mortality. See album cover, "Crazy Train," "Suicide Solution."
And that universal kid-cosset, masturbation. Omnia dixit. See album cover, "No Bone Movies."
The sound accompanying these pre-ado lescent polemics? As thematically variegated as white noise from a fully cranked Sears amplifier, as sonorous and sepulchral as Styrofoam on slate, as delicate to the senses as the death-squawks of baby chicks.
Osbourne has chosen his personnel wisely. Bob Daisley (formerly of Rainbow) plays bass, Lee Kerslake (formerly of Uriah Heep) plays drums and Randy Rhoades plays feedback and wattage. All four take credit for production, which is of the Turn-All-Knobs-Completely-Clockwise school of studio technology.
Moan and gnash your teeth as you will, "Blizzard of Oz" already has two hits getting incessant airplay whenever AC/DC isn't tyrannizing the waves. And we're talking FM. Like it or not, kids gobble this stuff up like Bubble-Yum, and Osbourne knows there's plenty of Daddy's wampum to keep him in eyeshadow for years to come.
But why fight it? If Osbourne and his ilk were to grow up, progress, get arty, they wouldn't be metallurgists anymore; they might not even be worthy of rock and roll. Just ask John Lydon. This noise is the noise of rock, and to deny it is to engage in a solipsism made safe by numbers, to swing on some star that fizzled out long ago.
Besides, if you listen close enough, you might make an insightful connection or two. A friend of mine who cut his rock molars playing Black Sabbath at 78 couldn't resist a little jaunt down memory lane at Osbourne's expense. Flipping "Crazy Train" to 45 rpm, he cocked his ear toward the speakers, only to gasp in wide-eyed revelation: "Pat Benatar!"