‘The Life and Times of an Imaginary Rock Star’ is the latest album from musician and artist Ruben Vine. This eclectic collection fuses punk, rock and metal with the trappings of concept album. It also boasts linking narration by the great Michael Jayston, who Whovians know better as the sinister Valeyard.
Ruben Vine is a Sussex-based alternative rock musician and artist. As well as being a prolific musician, Vine runs ‘Articles of Faith’ – an online store selling lightboxes, t-shirts, posters and other paraphernalia featuring his artwork. Vine provides the main vocals on ‘Imaginary Rock Star’ as well as playing bass and the title role.
Michael Jayston played the Valeyard throughout season 23 of Doctor Who, ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’. His character torments the Sixth Doctor, acting as a prosecutor with his own motives in mind. The Valeyard was one of the better aspects of a lacklustre final TV outing for Colin Baker’s era. So it’s no surprise that Jayston has reprised the role in several Big Finish productions. Without giving away the twist in a thirty-year-old story, there’s a reason the Valeyard works as an adversary to the Doctor.
This is most definitely a concept album, drawing inspiration from the likes of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ or ‘War of the Worlds’ – the latter being directly quoted. While each song can stand alone, they’re only scenes in one 45-minute story. On first listen, it’s definitely best to hear the whole thing in one sitting before you pick out favourite scenes.
With such a variety of styles, which songs you enjoy the most will definitely depend on taste. For me, the earlier tracks definitely stand out as the strongest including ‘Nuketown’. ‘Gossips’ is also an earworm, with a refrain that got stuck in my head for days after only one listen.
While the narration and songs merge more later on, Jayston’s links in the first half come in separate tracks with a backing score. It goes without saying that Jayston is a master of his craft and does a fine job. But what surprised me is just how well his hard-edged voice is suited to the tone of the album. Even lines that seem too bizarre for him to deliver straight are given the utmost conviction. The man was born to narrate surreal sci-fi concept albums, it seems.
The Rule of the Mob
The absolute high point for me is ‘Oh My Days’ and the narration that precedes it from Michael Jayston. Not only does this mark the protagonist’s turning point, it shifts the album’s tone towards more heavy metal songs. But it’s tempered with elements of folk music, with plenty of violins and snare drums, to add a surreal edge. Though perhaps not as catchy as the earlier songs, the change definitely emphasises the album as a journey.