Nightman Listens To – New Jersey – Bon Jovi

Greetings, Glancers! Before all the Snookies and muscular metrosexuals began stinking up the place, Bon Jovi were celebrating their home with their 4th album and mega hit New Jersey. Riding high on the success of their previous album, the band were rapidly becoming one of the biggest in the world, but it’s rare that a single album is enough to sustain a band or prove their abilities, and so the boys needed to prove themselves. New Jersey arguably goes further than Slippery When Wet by branching out a little from their usual sound successfully, while knocking out another number of glossy rock anthems which have stood the test of time. Like most of the band’s biggest albums, I’ve likely heard every song here at least once, but I can’t say for sure that I’ve listened to the album in a single sitting. Lets rectify that now!

Lay Your Hands On Me: Echoing drums, cheesy ‘hey’ shouts, and phaser/guitar/airplane noises to create a strange opening. A minute in and the experimental sounds still abound, with a few spoken pieces added. Eventually the gospel like organ and choir starts before giving way to the 80s Jovi sound. It’s nice that they’re trying new things in their first song, but strip that all away and we have another straightforward, mid-paced, well written anthemic rick song. The verses aren’t great, Jon has some odd vocal tics, but the chorus is great. There isn’t much more to it – the chorus gets stretched out for the last couple of minutes, with further backing vocals and instrumentation to give added oomph.

Bad Medicine: A famous guitar/synth intro gets us into fist pumping full swing and no time is wasted as the chorus blasts out in the opening moments. Funky verses at a mid-stomping pace lead into an anthemic bridge with singalong lyrics before tailing into that big chorus again. Simple stuff, but very catchy and yet another track for a wide range of listeners to headbang to. There isn’t much else to the song, a decent solo in between repeated choruses spreads things out to the five-minute mark, although all that ‘wait a minute’ nonsense at the end could, nay, should have been cut.

Born To Be My Baby: Three big hits in a row, this one again wastes no time in getting to the point with catchy chanting leading into atmospheric pumping synth similar to ‘Runaway’. This is a high energy track which sometimes gets lost amidst all the more famous singles from the band, but I’ve always felt it’s one of their strongest. It’s perfectly 80s, but the melodies are great throughout – verse, bridge, and chorus are each breathless and excellent. A particular scratching solo works well, and those 80s stadium drums make you want to run through the streets in an 80s movie montage.

Living In Sin: This one opens like an 80s pop ballad, and I don’t remember it. Guitars and drums come in eventually, though it’s all soft, middle of the road stuff. The chorus is once again anthemic but it isn’t working for me as I don’t recall hearing it before and it doesn’t have a particularly strong hook. A standard solo followed by a rinse and repeat to end brings an ok song to its conclusion… nothing memorable here, fairly standard 80s ballad cheese, but I imagine a lot of young couples got naked to it at the time and it likely holds a strong nostalgic value.

Blood On Blood: Another hit which opens with tinkly guitars and other effects along with tumbling drums and weird synth and Baywatch piano. South Park vocals with a Springsteen feel give a triumphant anthemic feel, and the pace and the chorus ensure this is another classic. It’s a feel good, fast paced smiling rocker with nice backing vocals and some good melodies. We bring things down a notch for a quiet, whispered section before bringing it all up again for a final chorus section. So far this is shaping up to be the strongest Bon Jovi album yet, but I don’t recognise most of the upcoming songs, so we’ll have to see if it drops in quality for the second half.

Homebound Train: Lone guitar whining which recalls Led Zep opens this one, before a big riff comes in. I don’t remember this one, but it seems funky enough. The ‘down down down’ section sounds familiar so I must have heard it at some point. It’s an odd vocal choice for the lyrics as Jon sings it in a sleazy style, when it appears to be a simple song about going home, though maybe it’s all about sex and I haven’t been listening properly. Nice duel between synth, harmonica, and guitar, pretty good guitar solo, then a funky mid-section. A decent enough, fun rock track.

Wild Is The Wind: Lots of harmonics on the guitars in this quiet opening. I knew it wouldn’t be long before the Cowboy Jovi appeared. I wasn’t 100% if I had heard this when I saw the track list, but yes I’ve heard it, even though I don’t remember it fully. The song becomes standard Bon Jovi rock stuff by the time we get to the chorus, but it’s a pretty great song; atmospheric, ok lyrics, musically and melodically strong, and a slightly more complex song from a structural standpoint. None of the hooks are as instant as the band’s most famous tracks, but there’s a consistency meaning they’re equally strong. One of the guitar parts sounds an awful lot like a guitar part from Bryan Adams’s .Heaven’.

Ride Cowboy Ride: We’re defo into Cowboy territory now, as the name suggests. A radio static tune with acoustic guitars and duel vocals serves as an introduction for the next track, but as a standalone song it fine, and the main hook is catchy without lapsing into full-blown Country disasters.

Stick To Your Guns: This opens with a blast before calming and transforming into an acoustic ballad for the verses. It’s another inspirational, full-blooded American anthem of the Springsteen ilk, but the chorus isn’t as powerful as the verse, and we all know that an anthem only works if the chorus is the peak. The chorus is fine, it’s just a little weak when placed beside the very good verse. I do like the way the guitar solo merges with the vocal when it begins.

I’ll Be There For You: This is the band treading into complete acoustic rock and ditching the synth to make a more honest, typical ballad. Even though the guitars are electric, and the drums are big, at its core this is an acoustic track. The verses are good, and unlike the previous track, the chorus takes things up a notch to ensure we move into anthem territory. The song does get stretched a little needlessly with an overly long second verse – it seems like an attempt to fit as many lyrics in as possible, but we get the idea after a few lines. Still, another good song.

99 In The Shade: When I saw the name of this one I immediately had visions of 80s cheese, though the name wasn’t familiar to me. It starts at a high pace, with Queen-esque harmonies before merging into standard 80s rock. Oh lord, ‘tell the boys’… as soon as you hear something like that, you know you’re fighting a lost cause. Yes, my assumptions were correct, this is all 80s cheese, how wonderful it is to party and all that shite. Most of the lyrics of the verses are lost, the chorus lyrics are light and shite, and there aren’t any melodies of note. There is a lot of shouting though, if you’re into that.

Love For Sale: Talking and harmonica messing around. Sounds like the band pretending to look like they’re arsing around. This continues at a high pace with a demo feel. It sounds like they are having fun anyway, there’s a great solo, the drums and bass are non-existent. It’s an odd choice of a final track for an album packed with stadium filling anthems and really should have been a hidden track if they really wanted to include it. It’s an ok song, but isn’t worthy of closing the album.

A mostly, consistently good album then, with a first side of hits, and a second half of lesser tracks ranging from very good to ok, and only one which I would consider poor. This is probably the best Bon Jovi album out of the four I’ve covered so far, and there are still quite a few hit albums coming up as the band began that treacherous crossover into the nineties. As with each of the Bon Jovi albums so far, there isn’t a lot of wisdom or emotion on display – these are party or driving albums, heart-pumping songs to get you moving and smiling, and it’s easy to cut away the chafe from the good stuff. Let me know what you think about the album in the comments – any special memories of hearing the songs at the time of release or if you feel it is another poodle rock mistake!

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