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Put away those cowbells and show the Blue Oyster Cult some respect

There comes a moment in every Sonic Youth show when guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo attack each other with their guitars, fencing with the necks and unleashing huge gouts of feedback at each parry and slash. This six-string sword fighting creates an explosion of sound that underscores SY's cool, graphically demonstrating the clashing of their highbrow song structure with rock & roll's lowbrow "loudfastrules" aesthetic, and it is lifted entirely from the stage show of Blue Oyster Cult. But if you're going to steal, steal from the best.

Scoff if you like, ridicule their obscure lyrics and enigmatic album titles (OK, Club Ninja is weak, but Workshop of the Telescopes is an evocative gem), make the obligatory cowbell jokes (damn you, Will Ferrell), but Blue Oyster Cult are pioneering alchemists (almost worthy of a BOC album title, that) in the struggle to elevate rock from the "boy-meets-girl, girl-tramples-heart-and-groin" trope while retaining the visceral elements that make rock roll. Guitarist Buck Dharma has composed some of the nastiest, hookiest riffs in history, and they churn along under insightful meditations on mortality, man's role in the vast universe and, uh, Japanese sci-fi monsters.

It is BOC's melding of the rarefied and the earthy that make them brilliant. Sometimes they overreach, wandering into unknown lyrical territories that mystify even the most zealous of their cult, but for every abstruse miss, there is a satisfying below-the-belt hit, a "Seven Screaming Diz-Busters" or a "Cities on Flame With Rock and Roll." To aid them in their balancing of the cosmic scales, BOC have recruited disparate writers as lyricists: meta-critic Richard Meltzer, science-fiction theorist Michael Moorcock and New York poet Jim Carroll have all collaborated with the Cult at various times, with varying degrees of success. But for BOC, success is not always the goal. It is the endless journey that concerns them and continues to draw fans to their dark altar.

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