By Tate Bengtson
Learning a few lessons from its unfortunate experience with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings, Trouble opted to self-finance its next album and assume control of its destiny. The result, like seemingly every other episode in Trouble’s career, was far from smooth. Plastic Green Head, released in 1995, suffered a bumpy ride exacerbated by the mixed and even tepid response to the album itself. Longtime fans, countenancing nothing less than a return to the style of Trouble’s first three albums, were disappointed from the outset. More recent fans, familiar with the updated take on Led Zep that the band pushed during its American years, felt alienated by the heavier tack. As a general group, metalheads focused upon black metal and melodic death metal; an album of metalized hippy songs simply did not pass muster. As always, Trouble was a child of a different time, out of sync and blissfully unaware of contemporary tastes.
What was missed within this challenging context was the simple fact that Trouble had released one hell of an album.
Boasting the most robust guitar tone of the band’s career, Trouble shifted to a riff-heavy approach and embraced the almighty groove. Trouble did not abandon its zeal for all things 70s so much as it reconciled this enthusiasm with a straight-up metallic punch. However, what truly allowed Plastic Green Head to stand out was its songwriting. Trouble had penned a set of songs that were memorable and infectious without shying away from the band’s harder-edged heritage. The stomping second track, “The Eye,” with its massive riff and catchy chorus hook, quickly emerged as a favorite. However, it would be the following track, “Flowers,” that clarified Trouble’s intent; its alloying of tripped-out psychedelic verses with an explosive chorus perfectly encapsulated the broad scope of its vision.
With the band’s territory clearly marked, from that point onwards the band devoted its time to investigating the potential and nuances of its vision. Covers of psych-pop ditties by The Monkees (the swirling “The Porpoise Song”) and The Beatles (the psychonautical “Tomorrow Never Knows”) comfortably co-existed alongside barnburners such as “Opium Eaters” and the gloriously despondent “Requiem.” While there are a handful of deep-album cuts that are innocuous and uninteresting, the vast majority of tunes present distinguishing elements with a high degree of competence and confidence.
Added to the reissue is one bonus track, “Till the End of Time.” While not a bad tune, it is obvious why it remained on the cutting room floor: it is unremarkable due to the restrained mood, uninspired and repetitive chorus, and wandering guitar leads. Still, it is of intrigue for diehard fans as it sheds a bit more light on this era. The other bonus is a DVD that includes documentary footage (including excerpts from the bonus DVD footage on the Psalm 9 and The Skull reissues) and some material from a 1996 show in Hamburg. The Hamburg set list focuses entirely on Plastic Green Head material with the exception of a cover of Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave.” The sound quality is thin and dominated by the vocals, but the performance is strong and affirms once again that Trouble can deliver the goods in a live environment. Inexplicably, the DVD also includes several songs from a Hawkwind performance, which presumably was shot at the same show in Hamburg. On top of this, the menu interface is rudimentary. Frankly, the DVD is slapped together. Moreover, this gauche quality is of a kind with the reissue as a total package; while not egregiously bad, it would have benefited from a little more care and attention. After all, this is a very good album. It should get its well-deserved due by virtue of historical retrospect, for it never received such acclaim upon its original release.
That said, this reissue is suitable for those who do not own the original as the album itself is certainly worthy of attention. Diehards will appreciate the bonus material that, while of middling quality, is still capable of casting some fresh illumination on this nearly forgotten era of Trouble’s, ahem, troubled existence.
Album rating: 8.5
Reissue quality: 5.0