Greetings, Glancers. Like my Bryan Adams posts, we’re at the point now where I had stopped listening to new music by Bon Jovi. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard some of this album, and I’m almost certain I heard the title track upon release, but as I type this I can’t recall what it sounded like. Looking at the rest of the albums there isn’t a single song that I recognize. According to Wikipedia, the album was heavily influence by 9/11 – unsurprising. I’m hoping then that there are some insightful and emotional songs here which I will enjoy, but given that we are entering unknown territory I’m not holding out hope.
Just an additional note: In these previous Nightman Listens posts I’ve literally been listening to songs for the first type and typing my thoughts as they play. From now I’m going to try to listen to the songs twice – first to get my initial thoughts, and then the second time for the nuances and to allow the song a chance to grow on me before ripping it apart.
‘Undivided‘ has an unexpected start, lots of chugging distorted chords. Near spoken verse. Lyrics seem to hint at 9/11. Decent chorus. Repeat. Decent middle eight/chorus. Decent solo. Decent softer ending. Decent all round then.
‘Everyday‘ starts with beats and a bit of the old mouth robot. More heavy metal chords. Decent verse again. Decent bridge. Chorus doesn’t really work, thought it was building up to something better. Seems like an okay single but doesn’t get me pumped like their bigger hits – not quite as good as the first song.
‘The Distance‘ opens with a screechy riff and fast drums before giving way to a more mid paced intro then settling into a calmed verse. This feels like a traditional old school Bon Jovi power ballad. I hear some strings. Moves into a pretty good chorus. It’s odd how the guitars have a much more metal tone on this album – they’re really crunching – but the songs are soft at their core. Still, this is probably the best song of the three so far.
‘Joey‘ has a soothing piano intro. It’s not quite Baywatch, but close. It’s another storytelling lyric with near spoken vocals. More strings. Unfortunate it’s very plain – verse, bridge, chorus are almost indistinct. The piano part is the best part.
‘Misunderstood’ starts in typical soft rock Jovi style – you’ll have heard them play this style many times before. The verse doesn’t do a lot for me in the first instance, the pre-chorus is nothing out of the ordinary, but then the chorus comes in and raises the rest of the song – the next verse etc feels better based on the strength of the chorus. I like the ‘I-I-I-I-I’ hook a lot, but the vocals sound strained – it feels like he managed to hit it once in isolation and they just shouted ‘cut, let’s use that one throughout’. The solo is generic, there’s some phasing effect on it, but nothing new.
‘All About Lovin’ You’ gets me worried that it’s the band going country again, but this moves away into soft ballad territory. There’s a weird choice of guitar tone for the lead in the intro – usually the sort of tone reserved for some blistering solo. The lyrics you’ve heard a hundred times before, all about pages of life and faded memories. There are some plain strings in the background, I don’t like the drum effects in the verse, it’s inoffensive stuff that loved up couples can sway to, but the chorus rips shamelessly from Never Say Goodbye – same chord progression, melodies, even the strings. On its own this is fine, but they’ve done the same much better before.
‘Hook Me Up’ makes me think of drugs. Bon Jovi has never been a drug band, right? It certainly begins heavier than most BJ songs, the same crunching chord over and over with some strange effects in the background. A simple progression comes in, this breaks off into an atmospheric piano and bass section which is nice, though I could do without the scratchy, whispery stuff in the background. The verses are sharp, fast, I like how the central chords fade back in to add a dynamic layer – it’s nothing revolutionary for the band, but it keeps things fresh. The solo reminds me a little of Duran Duran’s Ordinary World riff, the rest of the song and the chorus has quite a lot of hiss and its melodically familiar territory, though the sudden finish is appreciated and caught me off guard.
‘Right Side Of Wrong’ has an almost great intro – I have a thing for piano and string intros anyway, so I’m hooked at the outset. Lyrically we’re in Springsteen territory again, the verse is fairly plain with just the piano, Jon, and some light acoustic guitars low in the mix. Unfortunately the rest of the song doesn’t live up to the opening 10 seconds. In fact, it’s one of the more boring songs the band has written – it’s very plain and unadventurous and like elsewhere on the album it just makes me wish I was listening to a better BJ song. This one borrows very heavily from Bed Of Roses, but it comes nowhere close to reaching the standards of that classic – disappointing.
‘Love Me Back To Life’ feels like a potential single from the get go. There’s a brief crunch chord intro, giving way to simple rock chords, strings, and voicebox – all BJ trademarks. The verses are commercially brief, the pre-chorus sets things up nicely, and the chorus is pleasingly melodic – another you can see crowds singing to. It’s nothing extraordinary, but a decent stab at a soft rock single by a band deep into their career. The solo is accompanied well by the strings, and it’s followed by a softer section where Jon attempts another forceful high note, this time it mostly works if sounding a little strained.
‘You Had Me From Hello’ kicks off in classic acoustic ballad territory – if you’re a regular glancer then you’ll know I enjoy simple acoustics and vocals, so this is promising for me. I could do without the organ. Good vocals, and simple, endearing lyrics and melodies which come across as meaningful and honest. Everything flows well, verse into pre-chorus, and on into chorus. It’s all understated and the volume is never raised beyond gentle. I would drop the organ/keys and change up the shitty drums. Not for the first time the harmonies help things immensely. There’s a slight change for the middle, I don’t know if the song really needs it, the volume gets marginally louder and gives the rest of the band thirty seconds to do their thing before returning to form. A welcome surprise, and maybe my favourite on the album.
‘Bounce’ is another song that’s clearly a single candidate – I’m assuming it was a single given it’s also the title track, but I don’t believe I’ve heard it before. Again the trademark BJ sound rips out of the stereo, stadium guitar tone, voicebox and commercial melodies. At least this time the band sound urgent – there’s a lot of ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ here, and it sounds as if they are attempting another ‘It’s My Life’ as a lot of the tricks used there are front and centre here. This song doesn’t come close to reaching those heights, but it’s still a perfectly good radio friendly rock song. Special points, I guess, for the ‘I don’t give a fu-fu-fu-fu’ pre-chorus which is sure to be a live favourite.
‘Open All Night’ closes the album. I typically want my rock albums to end in buoyant, energetic fashion, but this is one of the softer ballads on Bounce. It’s nice enough drivel, the verses are pleasant but uneventful, while the chorus has some neat hooks. It’s not one of their best ballads, closer to the bottom than the top but it will obviously have plenty of fans singing its praises – just doesn’t move me.
Overall I mostly enjoyed the album – as mentioned I knew very little about it and while it’s heavy on the ballads, there are a few decent rock songs I wouldn’t mind hearing again, and one or two others which hit the mark. No bad songs, but quite a few plain songs which feel too often like overly safe remixes of former glories. Some bands continue to churn out the same sort of song, the key is to make people want to listen to the new stuff rather than hear the new stuff and wish they were listening to the old. Let us know in the comments what you think of Bounce!