Arizona Bay

Bill Hicks

RykoDisc, 1992

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Before anyone says "this is supposed to be a music review" Web site, take note, Tool's Aenima featured a Bill Hicks routine in their closing track "Third Eye." To top it off, Radiohead dedicated The Bends to Bill Hicks, who died of pancreatic cancer in 1994. Any artist responsible for these two albums definitely deserves a review.

Arizona Bay is a great album to introduce fans to Bill Hicks. It was the one album where Hicks took extreme care in structuring it like an album instead of a collection of skits. He even composed original music for the interludes. Most of Hicks' routine focused on societal evolution, how crass marketing is threatening to turn Earth into the "third mall from the sun" and the rampant anti-intellectualism that was prevalent wherever he went, especially the crowds he performed in front of. Not the stuff of a Jay Leno or a David Letterman for that matter.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Hicks was also misogynistic, homophobic and crude. I can't imagine one person who could side with every thing Hicks said in his routine, which made Hicks so special. It's easy to side 100 percent with an artist. It's much more difficult when an artist challenges you with relentless zeal like Hicks.

Those who have not heard Bill Hicks, but have memorized Denis Leary's No Cure For Cancer may become a bit disappointed with Leary after hearing some of Hicks' earlier material. Leary's famous rants against the sorry state of pop music just doesn't sound as funny when you hear Hicks' routine, which included similar gripes a few years before No Cure… was released. While Hicks definitely was not the first comedian to fuse vulgarity, politics and lowbrow humor, he was definitely responsible for much of the comedy we hear today.

It's easy to over-praise artists after they have died. I can already see the sea of 'A' reviews for Elliott Smith's first release following his death, scheduled for October of this year (myself included). It's also easy to say things like "it's as timely now as it was when it was released." However, with Arizona Bay, it's hard not to agree with that statement. Just listen to Hicks' hilarious "Me & Saddam" segment or "Elephant is Dead," while addressing Gulf War I, sounds like it could have been released today. During "Me & Saddam," Hicks even gave a response to the U.S.'s claim that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction: "well, we have the receipt!"

Hicks was not perfect. He included puns you could see miles away (e.g. pigeons saying "coup, coup" during the Kennedy assassination), but the delivery alone keeps you waiting for the punch line, and you inevitably laugh. Even when Hicks' went on an unpopular rant, he always included a self-effacing wink to the audience, "there are dick jokes, don't worry…"

Arizona Bay is arguably Hicks' masterpiece. It's the album that is arguably more timely now than when it was recorded. His effect on Radiohead and Tool (not to mention that Hicks is in an entirely different medium) is a testament to his talent and his ability to provoke. He proudly referred to what he did as "the comedy of hate." Hatred has rarely sounded so funny.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2004 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of RykoDisc, and is used for informational purposes only.