Nightman Listens To – Bon Jovi – Bounce

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!

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Chart Music – 1992

Yes! Back thanks to an almost universal lack of demand, I stretch back the scalp of time and feast upon the mushy innards of the past – in this instance I return to the UK music charts. If you’re interested, you can read my original post here – https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/the-uk-top-40/

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Greetings, Glancers! It’s time for me to think of another absurdist metaphor concerning looking to the past, as we look to the past – 1992 to be precise. In 1992 I was already a bite-size metal and grunge kid, watching Headbanger’s Ball and reading Kerrang magazine. Thanks to my love for those genres, even by that point in my life I was pretty miffed at the state of UK music charts. The bands I liked never got any credit or praise from the mainstream media and the radio would play the same shite. Sometimes of of course they were forced to bow to audience pressure and play something with a rock vibe – I remember many times that certain stations would play something like Sweet Child O’Mine or Smells Like Teen Spirit, yet cut the song short before it had ended. Even when the genres were at a commercial peak, they were shafted and pushed to the side.

But what else was happening in 19 and 92? George Bush senior disgraced himself and his nation by barfing all over the place, then officially ended The Cold War, The Maastricht treaty was signed, The Bosnian War kicked off, LA had some riots, Barney The Dinosaur appeared, Denmark won Euro 92, the Olympics were held in Barcelona, and Slick Billy prepared to become President. In music, Nevermind was number 1 in the charts, Mariah Carey went unplugged, John Frusciante left the RHCP, November Rain became the most expensive music video ever, James Hetfield got burnt, and The Bodyguard became the biggest selling soundtrack ever.

  1. Tasmin Archer: Sleeping Satellite

This was everywhere in 1992, and is still one of those songs that you can’t forget once you’ve heard it. I did like it then and listening now it’s still pretty great. Those gruff vocal parts are funny… I don’t think I’ve heard another Tamsin Archer song so I’ve no idea if she was a one hit wonder. I don’t remember the wacky organ solo.

2. Boyz II Men: End Of The Road

Speaking of songs that were everywhere, this thing was at number 1 for about 12 years. I’m not sure why it was so popular – I get why it was successful – but not why it was such a monster. It’s a decent ballad, but it’s cheesy as fuck and that video is horrific – four funny looking blokes with incredible voices moping about in funny looking clothes. This is what women were into in 1992 apparently.

3. Bizarre Inc: I’m Going To Get You

From the name alone I don’t remember this so I’m going to guess it’s a one hit wonder chav mess. Aaand, with the first second I remember it. Okay, I managed the first minute, that’s all you need to hear. I mean, it is dreadful. The singing, the repetition, the music, and the theme which seems to be rape.

4. Madonna: Erotica

We’ve covered this on the blog before.

5. Bon Jovi: Keep The Faith

We’ve covered this on the blog before.

6. Doctor Spin: Tetris

Now we get into the really bad shit. This wanky dance music was seriously popular at the time and if today’s charts are anything to go by, wanky dance music won the race. It’s basically the main Tetris theme tune with some weird voice in the background and other Nintendo noises zooming around. Just think for a second – someone actually made this, and enough people bought it that it reached the Top 10 in the UK charts.

7. Dr Alban: It’s My Life

The second medical practitioner turned shit music maker in our top ten this year. This one at least is less repetitive and has a weird, creepy, industrial vibe. I don’t think that was intentional. The overlapping beats are actually cool and this one has held up much better. Only the vocals really date it.

8. The Shaman: Ebeneezer Goode

Congrats, it’s another one that I refuse to link to because it’s an absolute abomination. One of undisputed worst songs of all time.

9. Take That: A Million Love Songs

And this is one of Take That’s less annoying songs.

10. Arrested Development: People Everyday

I’ve no idea what this is, so I’d better give it a listen. I don’t think I’ve heard this before, but I could be mistaken. It sounds so generic that any of these type of songs from this period all sound similar to me. It is quite annoying, all the call, response stuff, and weird backing vocals stuff, plus the kind of rap which was successful in the UK at this time was so tame.

So, a mixture of dreadful and bearable. 1992 saw plenty of major, genuinely good releases – Generation Terrorists, Vulgar Display Of Power, Little Earthquakes, Somewhere Far Beyond, Countdown To Extinction, Dirt, Tourism, Automatic For The People etc. For a much more invigorating and lovely list of songs from 1992, have a gander at these boys.

  1. Alice In Chains – Nutshell
  2. Del Amitri – Always The Last To Know
  3. Manic Street Preachers – Condemned To Rock And Roll
  4. Soul Asylum – Runaway Train
  5. 4 Non Blondes – What’s Up
  6. Nirvana – Aneurysm
  7. Dr Dre – Fuck Wit Dre Day
  8. Mr Big – To Be With You
  9. Richard Marx – Hazard
  10. Shakespears Sister – Stay

Feel free to share your memories, musical or otherwise, of 1992 in the comments below!

 

Nightman Listens To – Bon Jovi – Crush

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Greetings, Glancers. Bon Jovi have always been seen as an 80s band, but we know they had enormous success through the 90s too. After 1995’s These Days, the various members had gone and done their own things to varying degrees of success and by the time 2000 rolled around the musical landscape had changed dramatically. Could the band see in the millennium with another hit, and would anyone even care anymore?

You probably already know the answer to both of those questions, but if you don’t, here it is; yes. Crush was an instant smash, thanks to a string of hit singles and a sound which was both quintessentially Bon Jovi, but also found a way to speak to modern listeners. Even critics jumped on the bandwagon. I remember when the album was released that both people who outright refused to listen to guitar based music were listening to it, along with people who considered the band too soft and middle of the road. It’s an album I was pretty familiar with at the time, but haven’t listened to in a good ten years, so lets see how much I remember and if it holds up.

It’s My Life‘ was the first single and was of course a hefty hit. Harking back to their 80s sound with voicebox and references to Tommy and Gina, and reminds fans within seconds why they first fell in love. It’s big and brash, has a huge chorus, features lyrics designed to be belted out in a crowd, and is as simple a pop rock song as you’ll ever get. It’s not quite as euphoric as Livin’ On A Prayer, but it comes pretty close.

Say It Isn’t So‘ is another big single – they really front loaded this album with the big hitters – this can be a risky business if you leave the rest of the album without any instantly recognizable tracks. This one opens with an easy swagger, filtered vocals, and guitars reminiscent of many of the softer rock bands which were having hits around the time. I remember the chorus being stronger, listening now the vocals are really weird, the effect is too heavy and they waver around too much. There’s a strange keyboard part in the middle too, reminding us that 2000 was an odd time for rock music, as if it was unsure what direction it needed to move in.

Thank You For Loving Me‘ is a song I’m very familiar with and don’t really need to listen to again here. It was one of the songs my wife and I picked for our wedding day – she wasn’t having any outright metal for the ceremony, so the compromise was Bon Jovi. Nevertheless, it’s a great song and one of their best ballads. Sure it’s soppy stuff, but it’s good soppy stuff.

Two Story Town‘ opens with more turn of the millennium production – I can’t really say it’s dated but it is definitely a product of its time. This is a decent mid tempo rocker which doesn’t go full country – it flies under the radar but is good enough while it lasts. It’s clearly a step down from the first three songs.

Next 100 Years‘ starts with marching drums and a Sambora explosion before pulling back to a simple melody. It’s a good one too – nothing startling – and it builds up to an average chorus. It’s a song I try to like but it misses the mark while trying lots of different things. The brief bridge, the strings, and the solos are all good though – the song tries to go all Hey Jude for the ending, which doesn’t quite work, but it doesn’t totally collapse either. I like how they abandon this for the final minute and race towards the end with an epic solo and zippy violins.

Just Older‘ has another drum into, and again gets off to top speed for a brief moment before restraining itself for the verse. More lyrics about dreams and nostalgia fit well with the melodies and while the chorus doesn’t hit the heights, it’s fine. The verse and chorus compliment each other well, rather than having one outweigh the other. There’s another nice, twiddly solo leading into a softer section, though you know it’ll end with a bang.

Mystery Train‘ begins in acoustic fashion before the organ and electric guitars come in gently. I’ve always quite liked this one – it feels understated and genuine and again the verse and chorus are like glue. It feels like a song that most people will overlook or forget easily, but I think it’s one of their better non-singles – it doesn’t need to be so long though.

Save The World‘ starts steadily – drums, lots of string bends, and lots of violins. Those ‘education’ lyrics are a little cringeworthy, and the rest of the words feel cheesy, but it’s all well meaning. The melodies are great in places, but they are usually followed by something flatter rather than sustaining the quality. Again it feels too long, but it’s another fine song that just misses out on being really good.

Captain Crash And The Beauty Queen From Mars’ is Jovi going Bowie. Not really, but the name sound that way. Lyrics too. It’s a softer effort but a catchy one. This has single written all over it. It doesn’t have a huge chorus or anything, but it moves swiftly and I can see a lot of people enjoying it on sunny days. An easy love song, a little bit of poking at and making fun of young love while also revering those feelings.

She’s A Mystery‘ goes full ballad. That’s often a good thing for Bon Jovi, but sometimes a mess. This is a good one though, understated and subtle. It is missing a high point, instead happy to remain on a level. Verse and chorus melt into each other with the drums and guitar not really changing throughout. I like the backing vocals, I like the middle bridge, but it never reaches for that peak.

I Got The Girl‘ opens softly – low bass, light beat, whispered vocals. It suddenly bursts open for the chorus leading to a faster pace and mid level volume. It’s all pretty sweet, lyrically, melodically, and yes it is catchy too. This seems like another of those underrated ones that it’s easy to forget about or miss. No need for that extended ending.

One Wild Night‘ starts like a Disney song from the 1940s before moving forwards 40 years to the band’s 1980s heyday. This is pure 80s played 20 years too late. It’s good though, if you like that sort of thing. It’s as raucous as any of their bigger hits and has all the trademarks – chorus, guitars, melody, shouting backing vocals. The ‘na na na’ parts will get you singing along and the weaker among you may even roll down the windows to join the chorus.

Overall Crush is consistent – it opens big and closes big, and the middle has a mixture of ballads and rock standards. There aren’t any truly bad songs, while the best songs are pretty good examples of what the band does well. A couple of the non-singles are good enough to stick in your rotation but like most of their albums the majority of the album tracks are interchangeable. Still, it’s a decent album from the band and the last one I really know anything about – from here on out it’s uncharted territory for me. Next time around I’ll be checking out Bounce – an album that I’ll probably know a couple of songs from. We shall see. Let us know in the comments what your thoughts and memories of Crush are!

Nightman Listens To Bon Jovi – Destination Anywhere!

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Greetings, Glancers! We continue our mini-detour from Bon Jovi’s main releases to see what their front man was getting up to in his spare time. Last time around we listened to Jon strap on his boots and go bareback through the South, living out his Wild West fantasies. With 1997’s Destination Anywhere, the musical landscape had changed and the main band had matured. Will his second solo effort also highlight these changes or will it be a self-serving piece of masturbation? I definitely know (and like) a couple of these songs already, and hopefully there are some new ones which I’ll get into.

‘Queen Of New Orleans’ – Good intro, a clearly late 90s rock sound. Oddly deep vocals. Verse is plain, the chorus is too tame and the vocals don’t work. Mostly boring but a different pace and approach from what we know, it does veer way too close to a lot of those soft rock bands of the era who each had one hit then disappeared.

‘Janie, Don’t You Take Your Love To Town’ – This is one I’ve always liked. It feels like a Bon Jovi song, but it has that mid-late 90s drum sound. Unlike the first track, this one has good verses and a crowd-pleasing chorus. It may be formulaic, but we don’t come into an album like this expecting it to break ground. I’d never actually heard the full version of this before – the single works just as well.

‘Midnight In Chelsea’ – There’s that beat again, except this time it sounds like some RnB fluff. I’m not sure what audience Jon was going after with these songs – it would alienate his core crowd and the people who listen to generic chart fluff aren’t going to be interested in hearing some old white guy do it. Still, this is better than the first song, lyrics seem okay, and the chorus has potential. It doesn’t quite paint the picture of America that he wants it to, but it’s fine – the chorus is a grower, but it goes on for a minute too long.

‘Ugly’ – Hmm, that riff seems familiar. Maybe I have heard this one before. Yeah, it’s one of those songs. We’re all ugly sometimes, except some of us are more often than others. And we’re all in different environments which mean different outcomes to feeling or being u-g-l-y. Still, it’s fine, average or slightly better.

‘Staring At Your Window With A Suitcase In My Hand’ – Experimental country. I like the verses. They are nothing new, we’ve heard this stuff by Bon Jovi and other bands before. As you know by know, I’m a sucker for those atmospheric, shadowy songs – this doesn’t quite fall into that category, but it’s close. Again it’s just okay – nothing bad, nothing really good, just ordinary.

‘Every Word Was A Piece Of My Heart’ – Odd vocals. Gruff but low. Ordinary verse, decent bridge and chorus, but lacking those extra pieces to push it over into the good song territory. These songs are simply too samey and forgettable at the moment. Weird middle vocals and solo.

‘It’s Just Me’ – Madonna drums. More weird vocals. Ordinary verses, reflective lyrics, decent bridge, average chorus. You know the drill by now, and unless the album picks up in the second half it’s going to be a very forgettable experience. Hmm, this one just keeps going doesn’t it? Solo flapping to end.

‘Destination Anywhere’ – A more respectable one all around this is. It has the same weird not quite country sound as other songs on the album. The verses are fine but luckily the chorus does the trick, even if it does come from nowhere and doesn’t connect well with any other part of the song.

‘Learning How To Fall’ – More drum loops. This all seems ill-advised. More low. Some harmonica. Plain verse. Brief bridge. Plain chorus. Next.

‘Naked’ – Funky. This one at least is different. I imagine this is more like the sound he wanted to go with for the album, but it still feels like a lot of those other one-hit wonders of the era. ‘You can’t fake it when you’re naked?’ I don’t know about that…

‘Little City’ – More drum bits and bobs. Better guitar. Better vocals. It has the atmosphere and the shadows. Verses are okay, if it can pull off a good chorus then this could be a hidden gem. Eventually we reach a ‘sha la la la’ piece. It almost makes it but stays tantalizingly out of reach of true goodness. Ah well. Then it tacks on a minute of crap to the end.

‘August 7 4.15’ – Hmm, this seems more like it. Faster tempo, Springsteen vocals, catchy bits. Verses and bridges better than the chorus. Still, that’s two better songs near the end, but still not enough to save this from being a sleepy time record for sleepy sleep sleeps.

‘Cold Hard Heart’ – Closing with a ballad then. Or, something slower at least as this seems too downbeat to be a ballad. This is actually much better than almost anything else on the album, that is obvious from the opening minute. Good verses and great chorus. Three good songs to close – add a couple of the singles and you would have a pretty good EP.

That’s that then. An unfulfilling bore in all honesty. Points for trying to be different, but points removed for not fully committing to it and making something interesting. There are maybe only 4-5 decent songs here, the rest are filler and belong as B-Sides or on the studio floor. Tell me I’m wrong in the comments! Next up, the boys reunite and unleash Crush!

Nightman Listens To – Bon Jovi – Blaze Of Glory!

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You didn’t think he was going to do it, but back of the net! He (I’m) back, and yes, this time I’m going to branch off from the main Bon Jovi discography and listen to Jon’s two solo efforts. Blaze Of Glory or the Young Guns II Soundtrack was written and released at what most consider the band’s heyday – late 1980s, early 90s. At the time of writing, I have listened to and reviewed all of Bon Jovi’s pre-2000 albums so before I move on to the new millennium I thought I would cross off the two main solo albums. The other members of the band have released solo material, but I don’t know if I’ll care enough to listen to those – at least with Jon’s solo albums I am already aware of some of the songs and have a vague idea of what I’m getting myself into. Young Guns II is a particular favourite of mine and I’ve always been fond of the music – even though only two songs from this album appear in the movie. I haven’t heard the rest of this album, as far as I can recall, so it’ll be another interesting one for me. For you? Shut up and read.

Billy Get Your Guns: Starts in standard Bon Jovi style – big guitars and a little bit cheesy and 80s around the edges. He’s saying ‘Billy’ too much. Nothing exciting in the verses, light, fun, with a chorus which is a little better but still not anything special. There’s a pretty awful hand clap, music free section in there to reduce levels further.

Miracle: Ahh, that short intro brings back memories of watching the movie, before the song proper starts. This one seems like a nice enough ballad – I’ve probably head this before but I don’t remember exactly. More unfortunate hand claps in the chorus, along with some gospel backing – a decent chorus but it’s all very MOR 80s stuff. The guitar solo works well though.

Blaze Of Glory: The main event. Growing up as not a huge fan of Westerns in general, anytime I thought about cowboys I heard this song in my head. Even know, those opening notes make me think of The Wild West. Great song and typical of Bon Jovi’s best – atmospheric, melodic, big chorus. It’s great how the song fits in so well with the movie too, from lyrics to the actual music.

Blood Money: Harmonica and country guitars. Pat Garrett. Good verse melodies. Good melodies throughout. A short and sweet one, interesting and pretty.

Santa Fe: Drums and strings and piano. Nice intro. Good vocals again and more good melodies. Emotive and atmospheric, another great song which I’m surprised I don’t know.

Justice In The Barrel: Native American voices and other assorted sounds and words. This goes one for about a minute before the guitar comes in – great solo followed by manic drums, spoken words, gunshots and other swirling sounds. This interesting start gives way after a couple of minutes to a jarring, slightly cheesy riff. More very 80s stuff once the singing begins. The drums are unusually stuttered throughout. Decent middle section with more good guitars. A very odd song with equal parts good, bizarre, and crap.

Never Say Die: This is a faster paced song with memorable simple riff and catchy moments throughout. This one is quite familiar to me so I must have heard it before. Not sure about those random shouts, but that’s part and parcel of the BJ experience (matron). This could be a Bon Jovi band song from the 80s as it has the euphoric stadium chorus and the fist-pumping verses as any of their singles.

You Really Got Me Now: What a silly opening. What a silly tavern song. I guess it’s maybe good for a chuckle, but it’s nonsense that shouldn’t be on the album.

Bang A Drum: Drums. Chord. This sounds more reasonable. Drums pull back. Preacher. Decent verse. Good chorus. Similar inspiring stuff as your standard Bon Jovi fare. Backing choir for the chorus. Decent bridge. Here comes the solo? Yes. Extended outro with more prominent choir work. A perfectly fine song.

Dyin’ Ain’t Much Of A Livin’: Taking a famous Eastwood movie quote as the title for one of your songs seems like a good enough idea. Slow pace. More atmospheric soul searching. The chorus doesn’t have the impact it needs to. I think the verses and chorus work well on their own, but there is a slight disconnect between them so everything doesn’t sync up. Hmm, that na na bit actually sounds a little like a song I wrote, slightly.

Guano City: And so we reach the end. Seems like they have gone instrumental. It pumps along in dramatic fashion, reminds me a little of The Untouchables. Too short and doesn’t add anything to the album whatsoever.

A mixture of good and bad then – par for the course. Plenty of the songs fit with the tone of the movie and stand well on their own, but there’s only two or three here you’re going to choose to listen to multiple times. Next time it’ll be Jon’s second solo effort – again a soundtrack, but this time for a movie I haven’t seen – Destination Anywhere. Let us know in the comments what your thoughts of Blaze Of Glory and Young Guns II are!

Nightman Listens To – These Days – Bon Jovi

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Greetings, Glancers! It’s back to 1995 now, a year when Grunge was on the wane, Britpop was on the rise, and Bon Jovi were still riding high on the success of Greatest Hits album Crossroads and its two new singles Always and Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night. If those two songs proved that the band had the chops to continue through the turbulent decade, they needed to follow it up with a new album which could really drive that point home. These Days wasn’t as big a smash as the previous album, at least not in the US, but the band’s overseas powers continued and they had another big seller on their hands along with a string of singles. Looking at the track list there’s only three that I definitely recognize, though I assume I’ll probably remember one or two more once I listen. So far in this endeavour, Bon Jovi hasn’t done as good a job as Bryan Adams or Madonna at showing me new unheard gems, so maybe we’ll get one or two this time around.

‘Hey God’ starts with a distant drum. Then a voice. Then a crunching intro, rougher guitars and drums than we’re used to and an ever so slight country line in the mix. The drums step up a beat and the pace quickens for a thumping continuation. The pace and volume eases off for the verse, picking up again for the chorus as Jon belts out the words. I don’t think I’ve heard this one before, but it’s a good start – heavier and without the cheese and plainness which has so far plagued a lot of their album tracks. Though I see videos for this on Youtube, so maybe this was a single I somehow missed upon release. The vocals have a greater edge and don’t sound forced or growled for fashionable purposes. Lyrically it seems like it’s telling a story and the chorus hints at being influenced by the major grunge and alt-rock lyricists of the time. It probably doesn’t need to be over 6 minutes, but it doesn’t feel that long.

‘Something For The Pain’ starts with some sort of broken harpsichord wrangling before the main riff comes in. I do know this one, but don’t recall and particular fondness for it. Listening again now it feels like classic Bon Jovi – verses, bridge, and big chorus all mingling for attention. Te verse melodies are my favourite piece, the bridge feels a little average, but the chorus roars from the stereo and is sure to be another crowd-pleaser, even if it is a simple one. The middle section is a little bit different from what the band does, doesn’t work as well as it could have, but it’s not bad. Two good songs so far, and the two big hitters are up next.

‘This Ain’t A Love Song’ is the first ballad of the album. It opens with a soft touch and proceeds with a swaying last dance tenderness. This song has an absolutely fantastic bridge and the chorus is excellent too. The verses have that chatting over an empty beer glass quality, the lyrics punctuated with regret and nostalgic pain. The strings which come in are too low in the mix to make much of an impact – as much as I love strings I don’t think they are needed here. The song effectively avoids the cheese and is one of the band’s most effective ballads, and for my money one of their better songs.

‘These Days’ starts in somber form, with brilliantly evocative pianos and guitar – one of their best introductions, easily. The lyrics are good too, and once the drums kick in the Springsteen influence is plain to hear. The grunge influence is clear today, at least from the lyrical perspective – the emotion and wisdom therein perfectly suited to Bon Jovi’s musical style. It’s easy to forget that this one is essentially a ballad too once we hear the chorus, it’s a chorus as good as any the band has written and has a habit of taking centre-stage in our memories. I think this is one of their most emotional songs, and subsequently one of their best. Four songs in and this is as good a rock album as you’re ever likely to hear – can the rest of the album possibly live up to the opening?

‘Lie To Me’ start with Twin Peaks synth, always a good thing. More storytelling lyrics. Intelligent use of guitars. Ah yes, I have heard this before (once the ‘yeah yeah yeahs’ started I remembered) but there’s enough here that it feels new to me. It’s another ballad, not as instantly catchy as the two previous songs but the ‘yeah’ hook is great and there are plenty of moments in and around the chorus which lift it above the average. Another good song then.

‘Damned’ starts with more spoken parts. There’s an unusually funky riff for the band, not quite Chili Peppers, but something you wouldn’t expect from the band. Then we even get trumpets in the chorus. It’s a step down from the previous songs, but there is enough sport and fun and invention in this one to stop it feeling dull. There’s a kick-ass solo too, if you’re into that sort of thing. Possibly worth shaving thirty seconds off.

‘My Guitar Lies Bleeding In My Arms’ is one I thought I may have heard before, based on the name. Listening now, I don’t remember anything about it though. It feels like a darker ballad – that grunge influence again – even the guitar tone feels an awful lot like Alice In Chains in places. Nice avoiding of an obvious chorus there – it’s more obvious next time around, but still unusual enough that it doesn’t feel traditional. Heavier guitars come in eventually to give an unexpected oomph, followed by a decent, almost poignant solo. The song continues in this fashion for another couple of minutes, rounding out another strong effort.

‘It’s Hard Letting You Go’ starts with more synth, more ghostly than the Twin Peaks stuff, but with a similar vibe. Is this another ballad? More good vocals, more thought over the lyrics and construction than they have shown on previous albums. It’s certainly slow and littered with sadness which seems genuine, can’t believe I haven’t heard this one before. It feels like it’s retreading a lot of what they covered on Bed Of Roses – to the point that some of the lyrics and their delivery are almost identical, but it’s still another very good song. The momentary string bonuses work well too. I have to say this has been an unexpectedly fantastic album so far, I was genuinely concerned by the lack of recognizable names on the track list before starting, but safe to say this is their best album so far – lets not throw it away on the final few tracks!

‘Hearts Breaking Even’ starts with a mid tempo, mid volume before falling back to ballad levels. The verse is slow and simple, the bridge is pretty great, but the chorus doesn’t quite match the build up. The chorus is fine, but it feels very familiar even though I’m pretty sure I haven’t actually heard this song. Maybe it’s one more slight ballad too many on an album which has shown that it has much better ones. Still, that bridge is good enough to sell the song, and undoubtedly plenty of people will love the chorus. Some funny scratchy vocals near the end.

‘Something To Believe In’ has a stumbling drum intro followed by piano and bass and shouts. Again it all feels so much more well thought out than their previous album tracks. There’s a leisurely maturity to the song, a confidence that suggests the band have been writing at this quality for years when in truth their singles had been vastly superior to their standard album tracks. It’s another terrific song which continues to build upon the early laid foundations – I love songs which continue to build upon the same idea or riff or melody. There’s a bizarre drum and bass freak out in the middle too, another sign that the band were just throwing ideas against the wall to see what would stick, and surprisingly so far most of them have.

‘If That’s What It Takes’ opens in uplifting fashion, guitars bouncing jovially and fading easily to an effective verse. Yet again the songwriting is strong, the melodies run evenly through equally good bridge and chorus. It’s quite difficult writing these posts as I listen for the first time as I keep wanting to simply listen to the songs and not worry about typing random first impressions. Funny effects on the voice and guitars etc. Again the little experiments, the little additions of strings, the subtle things all pay off. No complaints.

‘Diamond Ring’ has slow guitar and bass and a very familiar melody. Where did they rip this off from – it’s on the tip of me tongue. It’s all very nice again, solid vocals and melodies, good acoustic sound and playing, and a fine closing song to an album which more often than not treads into dark places.

Finally! As mentioned in the intro, the other artists I’ve been listening to long term on the blog have fared a little better in their hidden gems with Madonna making a couple (so far) of fully coherent and strong albums. With These Days, out of nowhere Bon Jovi have crafted what is presumably their masterpiece – and they did it without a truly massive hit on the scale of Living On A Prayer or Always. That said, the singles I knew of beforehand are as good as ever but the songs around it are of a consistently high quality – at this point in my run through I didn’t think they were capable of it, especially considering that this is the last album in their classic period. It would be five years before they returned in a new century, and a new millenium with Crush – an album I remember being labelled as a comeback. It seems that label is not accurate as a comeback usually assumes that they previous work was maybe not up to scratch. This however is an album to remind you why you fell in love with the band in the first place and I’m now looking forward to Crush because of it.

What are your thoughts on These Days? Is it one of your favourite albums or have you dismissed it simply because it is Bon Jovi? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Keep The Faith – Bon Jovi!

Greetings, Glancers. Today we fluff up our mullets, stick a torch down our pants, and join the Poodle bunch as they embark on a mysterious new adventure into the 1990s – the decade when wuss rock was momentarily ripped to shreds by a new wave of young upstarts, only for them to implode and open the door for – well, nothing. There hasn’t been a single interesting advance in rock music since the grunge era. Regardless, we’re not here today to talk about such things, we’re here to listen to Keep The Faith, another monumental hit record for Bon Jovi which did see them shift in their musical direction to a more streamlined, mature rock approach, albeit one with many, many more ballads. It’s an album that I’m pretty familiar with, in that it has a hefty number of famous songs, but there are probably a few in there I have never heard so lets give it a shot and see if there are any goodies in the bunch.

I Believe: Warbling. Chugging guitars fading in. Swirling riff with building drums. A slice of cheese on the side. I don’t recall this one so far. Deeper vocals than usual in the first verse, with a touch of U2. Turns to usual rock vocals in second verse. Decent chorus, going for the stadium approach but lacking in the melody department.

Keep The Faith: A big, throbbing rocker with great build up in the verses and pay off in the chorus. We all know this one, fairly groovy as Jovi songs go, and the usual memorable melodies. It does take a strange military march/spoken approach near the end, but amazingly this doesn’t do any damage.

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: An unnecessarily cheese-laden intro with silly drums, hand-claps and yeah-yeahs almost makes this a complete mess, but luckily the melodies are sharp enough and the chorus is strong enough to pull things back from the brink. Everyone remembers the chorus melody and forgets all the other crap, so it must have something going for it – the second verse does get rid of most of the crap (and adds in some new crap) – it’s okay but could have been much better if they had just gone with a more straightforward rock approach.

In These Arms: The band channel U2 again and go for their first epic of the album. Luckily it pays off as this is a great track with powerful vocals, infectious melodies, and decent lyrics. Like a few others on the album the build up from verse to chorus is flawless.

Bed Of Roses: This is probably still my favourite Bon Jovi song, the rare Power Ballad which avoids being cheesy and has all of the important elements – atmospheric verses building to emotive, explosive chorus, and filled with melodies that you’ll be humming for hours after hearing. Perhaps unusually for the band, the lyrics are very strong but as expected the songwriting and playing is top-notch. A lighters in the air classic. I love the screeching guitar intro against the soft piano intro, the harsh middle section, everything really.

If I Was Your Mother: Starts with a phat riff. I don’t know this one. Chugs along heavily enough. Odd lyrics. Not much to say about the verses, and the chorus is fine – just plain and album filling stuff.

Dry County: I was always a bit partial to this one, but like many other people it seems that I forget about this one easily. Not sure why, I assume because I haven’t heard it often. I like the main melody, as kicked off in the intro – it has that atmospheric, burning ballad quality that I always fall for. I will say that the verses don’t do a lot for me, the lyrics are pretty odd for a Bon Jovi song, but the chorus is pretty good. There’s a pretty good Sambora solo, into musical interlude, into faster solo section which adds some icing to the cake. I suspect this is popular in Texas.

Woman In Love: I don’t remember this one, it feels a little like re-treading some of their 80s album filler tracks – sleazy, not much of a melody (the chorus attempts to go for glory but falls flat) or hook, and fairly standard rock playing from the group. It’s under four minutes so it doesn’t out stay its welcome but is instantly forgettable.

Fear: Continues the style and approach of the last song, though it’s a bit more robust. It has a better melodic quality but still isn’t memorable.

I Want You: An 80s sounding epic power ballad opening. The verses are more restrained, with soft guitars, piano and organ, and John singing at his most urgent. The chorus is fine but doesn’t reach the heights of their most famous work. I don’t remember ever hearing this one, and as it’s quite similar to many ones that I do know and like, it’s a pleasant surprise to catch this one finally. There are a few bridge type sections which stretch the song, but don’t add anything much of value.

Blame It On The Love Of Rock And Roll: I think I’ve heard this one before, but nothing about it sounds familiar. It has your standard rock stomp, but the verses and chorus are incredibly plain. Decent playing and vocals, ok lyrics, fun and upbeat, but very average stuff.

Little Bit Of Soul: Noises and chatter. Is this another experimental attempt? Electric and acoustics. Organs and piano. Finally singing. Light-hearted blues. More average melodies. Building, but more of the same. It’s another plain song which needlessly goes over the five-minute mark without actually saying anything.

So, Keep The Faith comes to a close and gave the band another bunch of hits. The first half of the album is peppered with brilliance, while the second half doesn’t have any standout moments with the exception of Dry County. Those five or so songs which keep the album afloat are among the best the band have recorded and prove again that they are gifted hitmakers. Yet again though, much of the album is simply treading the same old rock and roll ground with mid-tempo, blue jean forgettable hits, good for playing 8 ball and sinking beers to, but nothing else. The band would next release their greatest hits Cross Road, which I won’t review, but which could be considered their best album given that it contains their best songs up till this point as well as adding two personal favourites in Always and Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night. Next time, I’ll be reviewing their mid-nineties effort These Days.

What do you think of Keep The Faith? Do you have any fond memories of the album? Did you think the band successfully left the 80s behind and became a 90s band? Let us know in the comments!