Interrobang Rewind: Agents of Fortune — Blue Öyster Cult

Album cover for Blue Oyster Cult's album, Agents of Fortune CREDIT: COLUMBIA RECORDS
Blue Öyster Cult's fourth album blends the band's earlier hard rock style with more pop elements to great success.

Seasons don’t fear the reaper, and along with the wind, the sun, and the rain, the Rewind doesn’t either.

In this edition of the Interrobang Rewind, we’ll be looking at Blue Öyster Cult’s fourth release, their 1976 album Agents of Fortune. Even if you’ve never heard this album, or of BÖC as we’ll be calling them, it’s likely you’ve seen this album cover at least once.

First, it’s just an incredibly cool cover. Second, the lead single from this album, “The Reaper,” uses the same cover when it was released as a single. To say that song is popular is an understatement, having triple the amount of Spotify streams as the band’s next most streamed song, “Burnin’ for You,” off the band’s eighth album Fire of Unknown Origin (which is also a great album that you should 100 per cent listen to.)

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When released, the album was met with universal praise, with Rolling Stone calling it “a startlingly excellent album” and it eventually went platinum, rocketing BÖC from a band with a cult following to a music sensation.

The music is a departure from their earlier work, leaning towards more melodic songs then the fast-paced rock they’d made up to that point. It retains the dark and mysterious cultic vibe, but the songs are definitely more pop-friendly. Not that that’s a bad thing, it completely works here.

“E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)” has these heavy, chunky riffs, which are complemented by some choppy piano, giving the song an upbeat poppy feel. It also uses a talk box on the main riffs, which is still one of the coolest things to come out of the 70s music wise. Most of the songs have very upbeat tempos, apart from “The Reaper.”

The lyrics are where the album gets its strange and dark tone from. “The Reaper” is about the inevitably of death and eternal love, “This Ain’t the Summer of Love” covers the eponymous 1967 Summer of Love in San Francisco, and how it was just a ploy by corporations to make money, and so on.

There are some flops on the album, however. “Sinful Love” is a half-hearted attempt at a pop/soul crossover that is inoffensive at best. The chorus has these backing vocals singing “Dare-devil, she-devil, printer’s-devil, evil” in this really high-pitched voice that makes it sound a little goofy. Not to mention the lyric “I love you like sin, but I won’t be your pigeon” coming right after. Other than a really punchy intro, the song doesn’t do much to stick out in the track list.

I’m also not the biggest fan of “True Confessions,” which leans way too much into pop and loses a lot of the edge that the rest of the album embraces. The instrumental is not exactly anything special, with some pretty standard piano driven melodies. There’s a very cool saxophone solo around a minute in however, so it has that going for it.

By all accounts, this is a very good album with a lot of very good songs that suffers from a little bit of cohesion issues. The album has a few songs that just stick out like sore thumbs either being not very good, or stylistically out of left field. Which is what makes Agents of Fortune such a strange album to me when looked at in a modern context.

The album, despite all the earned praise, is not often spoken about, apart from its lead single. Most songs on the album have an average of 1.5 million streams, which is nothing to scoff at, but when some of your songs hit the 100 million streams mark, it is definitely strange.

I also don’t hear people talk about this album a lot when talking about the classic rock albums of the 70s. I can only theorize as to why that is, but my best guess is the album has gotten buried under all the other classic rock albums of the 70s, which is a damn shame. This is a great album and it’s worth a listen.

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