Ha! I bet you'd never thought I'd be blogging the latest Bon Jovi album after I gave the last one a critical kicking. Well, a couple of things made me think about doing this album. The first being that the last album ("Burning Bridges") was basically a glorified odds-and-sods album to round off the deal they had with Mercury Records. It was comprised of material that was, in the words of the B-Man, material that "weren't finished, finished and with a couple of new ones". Also described as a "Fan Record" too. The result was, in my ears, a god-awful mess and the sound of Tommy and Gina pissing their last in a nursing home whilst suffering from Altzheimers. This may have been a bit harsh, but like I said at the time, odds-and-sods collections are usually a mixed bag, quality wise. So I figured that I'd review the album with proper material on. Secondly, it turns out that they have a new guitarist by the name of Phil X and long-time session bassist Hugh McDonald is now officially a part of the band, so we get to see him in photo shoots now! Still, at least it's better than making him play backstage like a certain overhyped band from Iowa...so, the fact that the band now have an albums worth of material which isn't comprised of reheated leftovers as well as two more official members may lead to an overall more coherent album.
This is the thirteenth studio album by Bon Jovi and was released on Island Records. Now I'm not expecting a return to the youthful exhuberence of "Slippery When Wet" and "New Jersey", that would be impossible after thirty years and an absolute fuck-ton of live shows and other stuff. Hopefully they can still reach into their magic bag of tricks and produce something that doesn't entirely suck balls, we'll see. Just so you know, the album itself is not on Spotify yet, so I've had to borrow a copy off a workmate (Cheers, Pete). However, it is available on iTunes. Various versions have various extra songs on it but I'm going with the main twelve. So let's get started...
1) This House Is Not For Sale - Kicking things off with a standard rocker, it harks back to the more rock sound of the band. The production sounds quite vibrant and the drums have quite the punch to them. A singalong chorus with plenty "woah-ohs" in there suggests not only single potential (if bands still do that) but should also go down nicely live. Before they play the fifteen minute singalong version of "Sleep When I'm Dead". Seriously, there also seems to be a hint of defiance in the song too. Like the band feels like it still has something to prove. All in all, it's a quaint number which hints that this album may not suck as hard as the last one. We'll see, as we've another 11 songs to go...
2) Living With The Ghost - Kind of continues the same theme as the first song, standard rocker which is nice. Not too bad a song, certainly more of a gown-up rocker than the stuff from the early days. Sounds like the band have grown up with the audience. Almost as comfy as a pair of slippers.
3) Knockout - This one opens up with group vocal "heys" before going into a keyboard-bass-drums verse. The keyboards are rather prominent on this. More uptempo than the last two, this is quite a raucous song, dare I say it but we have not just a good song, but a REALLY good song. I'm not just saying this but I'm hearing more of an urgency and passion in the first three songs than the whole of the last album, so this blog may not yet be another Bay Of Pigs-style massacre...yes, I really like this song. Should be great live.
4) Labor Of Love - Time for the slow, introspective song. Well, we cannot be rocking all the time, it's good to let off steam now and again. It's not too bad, to be honest. Not as syrupy as that "Always" piece of shit. It could almost pass for a song from a rom-com or something. Possibly one written by Richard Curtis about posh people (played by Hugh Grant and Keira Knightly) falling in love. With hilarious consequences. Again, this was really good.
5) Born Again Tomorrow - Upping the pace again, this initially starts up with group vocal effects before going into a standard modern Bon Jovi rocker. Guitar solo in this song is alright, Phil X does a good job, although it seems a bit interchangable to other guitar solos. Not really a stand-out...the song doesn't outstay it's welcome either, which is good.
6) Roller Coaster - Acoustic opening with keyboard effects. The verses are quite sparse with a chugging acoustic guitar but things get faster for the choruses. It's certainly a mixed bag for sure. Kind of getting a "Born To Run" vibe from this one, must be a Joisey thing...
7) New Years Day - Not really much to write about this one, it's another standard rocker. The kind of adult rock these guys have been doing since "Keep The Faith" at the very least. The band have obviously found their niche, it seems. It's not a bad song, not at all.
8) The Devil's In The Temple - Electric guitar chords whilst Jon sings about getting the Devil out of a church. Keyboards sound very orchestral and it creates an ethereal atmosphere. The lyric about how the Devil has "got the Mona Lisa, got his hands up her dress" is...interesting, I guess. Mind, this is the band who wrote "Born To Be My Baby" so I guess it shouldn't really be a shock.
9) Scars On This Guitar - Oh God, this isn't going to be another of those attempts to try and capture The Beatles with the vaguely familiar song title, is it? "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is a good song but it cannot be rewritten! Acoustic guitar and piano intro whilst Jon sings about getting back to the hotel after the show and seeing a woman on his bed. Then it talks about the scratches on his guitar, seems to be a metaphor for the touring life. A good ballad, again, not too syrupy either.
10) God Bless This Mess - We're back to rocking out, which is nice. We're nearing the end of the album and I think it's safe to say it's much, much better than the last one. This song is alright, not as good as the ones before it though. Nice piano and vocal melodies though.
11) Reunion - Opening is very reminiscent of "Waterfall" by The Stone Roses, which raises eyebrows right away. In fact, the whole song is pretty much a reminder of that. Not as psychedelic or as trippy, but it's jaunty enough.
12) Come On Up To Our House - Well, this is an interesting one. The lyrics in this are EXTREMELY cheesy, but luckily, the music is so good, it manages to bypass that. The weird thing is that the tempo and general feel of this song do feel like a welcoming blanket and cup of cocoa for a cold and weary traveller. By rights, I should fucking hate this but I don't. It's a well crafted song. Why the fucking fuck couldn't they have done this for the last album??!!!!
Well, that was a much better album. I wouldn't know if it was a return to form or not as I rarely listen to Bon Jovi. I only got my copy of "Slippery When Wet" because it was mentioned in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. I guess that's up to the listener to decide. There is definitely better songwriting on this one than the last album, and it's more mature than the early stuff too. There is no "Runaway" on this album. Jovi fans should enjoy this. It's far superior to the last album, which, I guess was the product of circumstance due to leaving Mercury, so it was just thrown together. This album is more solid, better crafted and a fuck-ton more coherent. This album is the sound of Tommy and Gina in the nursing home, telling everyone grand old stories from the old days, full of fun and happy to see the grandkids. They've also lost the dementia in the same way Rocky Balboa did between the fifth and sixth "Rocky" movies.
7/10 - This is good and well worth a check.
Top track: Knockout.