Sunday, July 29, 2007

So Far, So Good ... So What ... Happened?

On Warrant's third outing "Dog Eat Dog" the band made special efforts to make it clear that the band listed in the liner notes are those responsible for the performances on the album.

I find it amusing that such a note had to be included and baffled that some band members wouldn't have recorded parts for the albums especially since Erik Turner is the originating member. I just thought that playing on the albums was all part of the band deal, but what do I know. Anywho, enough of the controversy and on to the album.

"Dog Eat Dog" is a rawer, edgier and slightly more melancholic album with that stadium sized Warrant sound. The band continues to play around with some different musical stylings, but never enough to feel like a new band. However, I think this attempt to keep up with the upcoming Alternative/grunge sound was a little too late and the band suffered for it.

The album doesn't suffer and this independent maturer Warrant is a move in the right direction (Though "Cherry Pie" seems to appeal to me more, personally speaking) I think the band could have had more staying power.

Warrant kicks of this record with "Machine Gun" which is a bullet spewing riff chugger the doesn't lose the melodic edge or hooky chorus. Note the enhanced electronic vocal flourishes here and sporadically throughout the album, something a little different then they've done before. "Hole In My Wall" continues the sex themed lyrics and the chugging guitar work with a touch darker lean and a talkin' guitar solo. A catchy song. "Bonfire" completes the sexy trilogy a few songs later with a groovier rawer rock sound.

"April 2031" and "Andy Warhol Was Right" sees Warrant take on political and social commentaries. "April 2031" is a killer dark, bleak tune with ever so slightly corny lyrics. A great tune all the same. "Andy Warhol Was Right" bookends with a child singing and plunking on a toy xylophone which is quite effective given the songs subject matter. The tune is beautifully melodic at first and downright heavy and emotionally punching later on. I'd go so far as to say this is my favourite song. A little unique, but familiar sounding and genuine.
"All My Bridges Are Burning" and "Quicksand" are fairly standard songs with "...Bridges ..." being the better one with a cool bridge lead in to the solo and "Quicksand" being a little darker and ballad-like. "Inside Out" is the fastest song Warrant has ever done (up to this point at least) and is almost punk in intensity. Great song.

The ballads here are faithful and memorable. "The Bitter Pill" is piano driven (ala "I Saw Red") and very catchy and melodic. The operatic breakdown in the middle seems a little unnecessary, but not arresting. "Let It Rain" is melancholic and features gospel-like female backing vocals.
"Hollywood (So Far, So Good)" is a great upbeat peppy song. Inspiring and damned catchy. While "Sad Teresa" is more uplifting and hopeful and slightly White Lion-esque. Both songs are rocking acoustic tunes.

Of all the Warrant albums I have (the first 3 only) this one sounds most original and not too poppy. I enjoy the first 2 with "Cherry Pie" being MY favourite, but I really like what they did on "Dog Eat Dog".

I did own "Ultraphobic" for a bit, but never cared for it and was quite disappointed with it. I have no more interest in anything else from Warrant, but these 3 albums, though I wonder where the band could have gone if they didn't try to go grungy/alternative. Ah well. Up next I'll be reviewing the Eurovision champs of a few years ago, Lordi. I struggled with this band for a bit, but wore down and bought an album.
Stay Tuned!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Should Have Gone To Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Warrant's follow up album "Cherry Pie" is the bands most well known work and I'd say my favourite of the bands material. The album shows some growth while not alienating current fans and they experimented with some different styles and a slightly darker edge. All this moved the band forward in a good direction and secures them as strong songwriters.

"Cherry Pie" the title track was not originally supposed to be the album title or even a song, but was simply thrown together due to label pressure and released as the first single. The album was supposed to be called "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (a far superior song, no reference to the novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe). It would be interesting to see where the band would have gone without the song "Cherry Pie".

Jani Lane often laments on the inclusive of "Cherry Pie" on the album feeling what they had was good enough. He went so far as to state ~I could shoot myself in the f***ing head for writing that song~. Despite his attitude towards the song, it really is a good tune with a strong rock sound and a classic 50's & 60's rock influence and enough sexual innuendo to make Kiss proud. "Sure Feels Good To Me" and "Love In Stereo" continue the sexual themes quite cleverly with solid hooky hard rock melodies and further touches of 50's & 60's rock n roll.

"Uncle Tom's Cabin" is a stand out song because it's an outstanding tune. Dealing with the story of a pair who witness the involvement of local police in a double homicide. It has got to be the finest song Warrant has ever produced. From the acoustic intro and the banjo accompaniment, the song is an emotional narrative and a heavy hard rock song with that darker edge mentioned earlier. This is my favourite Warrant song.

The ballads are plentiful, but all distinct and avoid making the album to soft. "Bed Of Roses" could have been on "Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin' Rich" and is comparable in quality to "Down Boys". It's heartfelt and upbeat. "Blind Faith" is more standard in power ballad style with acoustic verses and power chord chorus's, but it sounds genuine and moving. "Mr. Rainmaker" is rockier and a little darker sounding despite the cheesy lyrics. A great song all the same.

The ballad of choice here is "I Saw Red". Based on the true story of Jani Lane's experience during the "DRFSR" recordings. The song is very simple yet very real. It sounds like it was written by a person who's been hurt bad by betrayal and has taking a long time to heal. It's raw and emotional and powerful. The acoustic version by Jani alone is even better and enhances the raw simplicity of the song.

"Song And Dance Man" and "You're The Only Hell Your Mama Ever Raised" are solid rock songs, but steer away from the "DRFSR" Warrant sound and help move the band forward. And the album closer "Train, Train" is like a kick in the teeth with groove and a southern flavour.

Overall "Cherry Pie" is a really well done album with great songs and a maturity in sound from their debut. On "Dog Eat Dog" their third outing, the band delves deeper into themselves without a lot of pay off.

That's coming up next week.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin' Catchy

I like Warrant. And I'm not talking about the German Speed Metal band of the early 80's either. I'm talking about the Sunset Strip Glam metal/hard rock band Warrant. Now when I say I like Warrant, I mean I liked Warrant. Up till "Dog Eat Dog" that is.

Now we can debate the controversy of the first couple albums and who played what on which song and such, but I simply just want to review the album and in so may refer to said members as listed as the band. So without further ado, let's see what I have to say about "Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin' Rich (DRFSR)".

"DRFSR" is a very catchy album and I would go so far as to say there is not one bad song on it. The guitars are heavy, the vocals are passionate and charismatic and the songs are melodic and memorable. Whether you like it or the band or not, it is a very good album.

"32 Pennies" starts the album off in a groovy, playful way that hooks the listener in with its sing a long lyrics and nice guitar work. It's everything you'd expect in a good hard rock song. "Down Boys", my favourite song, continues this trend, but adds some nice keyboards to give the song a more uplifting and melodic edge, as does "Big Talk" to a lesser extent.

The album also includes the standard "sex" songs one would expect in "Cold Sweat" the weakest song on the album in my opinion, but a catchy flat out rocker all the same. And "So Damn Pretty (Should Be Against The Law)" which is just a great rock song musically and lyrically. The title track and heaviest song on the album is sludgy in quality and lyrically cheesy, but fun. I hope it wasn't meant to be serious.

"In The Sticks" and "Ridin' High" are both hooky melodic songs with groove and catchiness. The 2 ballads here are fairly standard fair, but are extremely well done. "Heaven" which garnered the band loads of fame (and a re-recording for later pressings) is a fun, sappy song, but feels heartfelt. I much prefer the moving and powerful "Sometimes She Cries". The intro solo is beautiful and the song comes across as sincere and sticky sweet all at once.

All around "Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin' Rich" is just a good fun album which you can't go wrong with. The sound is big, the music is huge and the band is over the top. I can't imagine Warrant playing anywhere but arena's.

During the recording of "DRFSR" Jani Lane had a nervous breakdown when he "Saw Red" which would become one of
the gems on their follow up "Cherry Pie". That's next week.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Not Just Another Fish In The Sea ...

Today I'll be taking a look at the Alternative/ Hard Rock band Dirty Beloved who hail from Canada's Capital City, Ottawa. This is a special post for me because earlier this year I reviewed another Ottawa band by the name of Headview (many years past relevance) whose album I truly enjoyed, but feared nothing more from them (A surprise second album will be reviewed here at some point). Well, I received a comment from Headview's lead singer Armin Kamal who stated his surprise at such a belated review of said Headview album "Sad Tomato" and directed me to his myspace page and new band Dirty Beloved. The band has just released their debut album "A World Made For You".

It would be easy for me to compare this album to Headview's, but also it would be unfair and unnecessary. The only thing in common between the bands is sharing the same lead vocalist, but musically they are worlds apart.

"A World Made For You" is hard driven rock album with experimental touches and providing a nice alternative to today's cookie cutter rock albums. The album begins with the bluegrass influenced reflective instrumental "Prelude" which leads into the the 2nd song "Let It Shine" as the accompaniment during the verse's before Michael Hope kicks in with some thick, solid electric guitar riffing for the chorus. Add to this Armin's melodic vocals and this makes for a very catchy opener.

What I think surprised me most with this album was the solid wall of rock guitars. Very heavy and crunchy. I'd almost say heavy metal in influence and certainly at times I get a feel of the classic hard rock sound of the mid-nineties. This is most notable on "Should I let It Slide" which is a slow groove laden number with harmonic melodies and "UnLock The Cage" which is a flat out hard rocker with some blistering drums and fine bass work.

"I've Done All I Can" is ballad like and one of slower sweeter moments both melodic and moving. "The Weight Of All Your Words" is sweetly melodic as well with some nice ambient guitar work and ska/reggae like guitars adding a little flavour and drives us into the experimental closing song "Tilting At Fuller".

"Tilting At Fuller" is ambient sounding with some spoken word vocals and effects laden guitars mixed with jazzy style drums. Armin's vocals reach an almost frustrated wail while vocalizing ~Why do people do/say stupid things~ which makes for an amusing, thoughtful song. Despite it's effects heavy sound it doesn't seem out of place on the album.

The stand out songs for me are the guitar heavy "On The Pharm" that's pummelling and aggressive and shows Armin's strength's as a vocalists. It also features a nice solo and is an all around solid hooky song. My favourite track is "Fish In The Sea" which has a funky groovy rhythm section by the bassist Todd Jodoin and drummer Neil Grandy. The verse has a real catchy guitar and bass mix with some good subtle keyboards for mood. The chorus is heavier and rock oriented while staying melodic and some haunting vocals. It's a really nice song that sees the whole band come together by standing out individually.

"A World Made For You" is a solid, well produced album that allows each member to stand out, but keep a strong unit sound. I really like the bass melodies and I can actually hear them instead of being drowned out by everything else. The drums are steady with nice flourishes and plenty of subtleties to keep things interesting without sounding showy. The guitars are thick and heavy and very rock and the vocals are strong and melodic, sweet yet rock gruff and passionate.

A strong debut with loads of potential. Check out their website and MySpace and see for yourself.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Thick Is The Skin, But Unoriginal To The Ears.

Skid Row, after "Subhuman Race" took a few more years off and got rid of Sebastian Bach in the meantime. Long time drummer Rob Affuso also left (on better terms) due to other commitments. The band brought in Johnny Solinger on vocals and Phil Varone on drums.

Along with some new members was also a new sound. However, the new sound on "Thickskin" just doesn't feel like Skid Row and this makes me question whether they should have kept the name or changed it. The same could have been said about "Slave To The Grind" but with Bach's vocals there was no questioning which band this was. It was unmistakably Skid Row showing growth as a band.

Skid Row is no longer a "hair metal" band or even the thrashy hard rock hybrid of the "Slave ..." and "Subhuman...". What we have here is unquestionably a alternative rock album in the veins of Staind and Seether with Goo Goo Dolls stylings. Largely in part to Solinger's muffled groan that's exactly like every other vocalist in the genre. He's competent enough, but unoriginal and lacks the emotional impact I at least felt from Bach.

Let me be clear here and say the album is not bad, but is this a Skid Row album? No. I'll use Creed as an example. How the band got around the Scott Stapp stigma was to simply to reform Creed as Alterbridge and hire a new singer.

The similarities are there, of course, but I didn't have a preconceived notion of what Alterbridge would or should sound like. But with Skid Row's 4th outing "Thickskin", I'm left disappointed and forced to re-evaluate the bands direction. However, if they reformed as Sabo Bolan Hill, I'd have been a little more open-minded.

Then again, by me expecting a certain sound from a band is unfair to them if they are trying to grow. But growth doesn't mean abandoning a signature sound. Iced Earth and Exodus have kept their sound despite line-up changes, so who knows. Let's get to the album review now.

"Thickskin" begins with the thumpy rocker "New Generation" with mechanical vocals akin to Nine Inch Nails Trent Reznor. "Mouth Of Voodoo" is more bass heavy sounding slightly Stabbing Westward-ish and "Lamb" is a heavy hitter with the most Skid Row sounding solo on the album.
"Ghost", "Swallow Me (The Real You)" and "Down From Underground" all have that modern alterna rock sound like Staind and Three Days Grace and such. "Born A Begger" and the ballads "See You Around" and "One Light" lean towards the Goo Goo Dolls in guitar sounds and stylings, but both are catchy and melodic and "One Light" 's guitar work is very nice.

"Thick Is The Skin" is a chunky heavy song reminiscent of White Zombi partially because Johnny's vocals sound like a mix of Sebastian Bach and Rob Zombi. There are some punky offerings in the album closer "Hittin The Wall" which is fast with the mechanical vocal quality of the album opener. The other offering is a remake of their debut's "I Remember You" called "I Remember You Two" which is faster and more pop-punky sounding and nowhere near as good as the original. They should leave the punk covers of their songs to the fledgling punk bands.

Unfortunately there is no one song that stands out, but I'll go with "One Light" due to its beautiful guitar work. As I said earlier, the album is not bad, it's just not what I want from Skid Row. If Staind or Seether or Three Dogs Grace released this album it would only be ok. This is the last album I'll probably buy of theirs (and this one mostly cause of the "Remember You .. "
cover as their latest 5th release "Revolutions Per Minute" is more of dirty rock album with nothing standing out. I'm not digging the direction they've moved in and wonder what they would be like with Sebastian Bach still fronting them.

Oh well. Up next is not a "hair metal" band, but an up and coming Ottawa, Ontario based based hard rock group Dirty Beloved with their recently released debut album.