Legendary punk rock singer Billy Idol has released “Bitter Taste,” the first single from his forthcoming EP Roadside and his first new music since 2014’s Kings and Queens of the Underground. Written and recorded with longtime collaborator and lead guitarist Steve Stevens, the album and single were created during the pandemic and produced by Green Day and Weezer producer Butch Walker.
Idol began his career in the late 1970s as the lead singer for the British New Wave band Generation X, scoring several hits and bringing pop sensibilities into the British punk rock movement. In 1981, Idol set out on his own, landing several hits including “Dancing With Myself” from his eponymous debut and touching the upper reaches of the Billboard charts with singles from his smash hit 1983 follow-up Rebel Yell. Idol continued his success into the early 1990s before largely stepping away from the music industry; he has recorded only sporadically since then, releasing one album of original material in each of the past two decades.
“Bitter Taste” sees Idol pursuing a more sensitive and introspective lyrical direction, reflecting on his near-fatal 1990 motorcycle accident and his personal growth in the following three decades. His voice sounds aged compared to his early-80s heyday, having gotten significantly more colorful and slightly rougher. His vocal tone is well-suited for the complex themes of the new material, lending the weighty content a sense of lived-in legitimacy. The song largely eschews the aggressiveness of his early punk rock hits in favor of mixed acoustic-electric instrumentation and a somewhat restrained arrangement, adding an air of gravity to his songwriting. The back half still gives room for volume, as it expands for Idol to offer some classic arena-filling yelps as it grows into a resilient anthem.
The single was released on Dark Horse Records, the label originally launched in 1974 by former Beatle George Harrison, which has been recently relaunched under the leadership of David Zonshine and Harrison’s son Dhani. The label’s roster includes Idol and fellow punk legend Joe Strummer, as well as sitarist and former tutor to Harrison Ravi Shankar.
“Bitter Taste” is accompanied by a music video directed by Steven Sebring, who has done videos for Jack White and punk legend Patti Smith.
Idol will support his new record with a series of tour dates, including shows at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, New York’s Capitol Theater, and the Sea.Here.Now Festival in Asbury Park, NJ.
“Bitter Taste” is out now via Dark Horse Records; The Roadside EP is set for release on September 17.