Gavin Rossdale - Adrenaline
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 46 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
His band is apparently still together but during a break between records, Bush leader Gavin Rossdale recorded Adrenaline, which is on the XXX soundtrack. Not surprisingly, the world is a lot more interested in Rossdale marrying No Doubt's Gwen Stefani than in his new single. In 1994, Bush released its first CD. Sixteen Stone was justifiably criticized as unoriginal and derivative of better music by people like Nirvana but it did have a couple edgy, exciting singles, Machinehead and Everything Zen. Since then Rossdale has kept making edgy music but the excitement is long gone. While Adrenaline is a solo project, nothing differentiates it from Rossdale's Bush music. He again does a tight, agitated vocal over dense music that, with guitars and electronics, creates a tense atmosphere. But Adrenaline is painfully familiar and like much of Bush's music, Adrenaline never reaches the greater depth or emotional payoff that the initial tension promises and the writing isn't interesting or detailed enough to go beyond the song's initial surface appeal. I suppose Adrenaline is appropriate for a Vin Diesel movie, which like Bush's music, is more about atmosphere and looking good than actually creating something new or imaginative. Rossdale's lyric includes all kinds of macho posturing about "going to extremes", getting "closer to the thrill" and how "you don't even feel the pain." Brags about not being "the kind to lay down and die" are pretty meaningless without any information about what's getting the adrenaline flowing.
Ginuwine - Differences
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 45 (Jan. 2002) buy it!
There have long been smooth R&B lover men willing to show vulnerability to convince a woman they'll be a sensitive, caring partner. But on Differences, from his Life CD, Ginuwine(born Elgin Lumpkin) kind of strikes me as a wimp, especially in the context of the creepy video showing Ginuwine serenading and worshipping his dream girl in a glowing Heaven-like setting. Differences is nice but boring, stating over and over that "my whole life has changed" and "you are so sweet." Ginuwine's vocal is good, starting smoothly and ending intensely but Differences' music is ultra mellow. The soothing backing vocals and synths are a big yawn.
Ginuwine - Hell Yeah
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 33 (May 2003) buy it!
Ginuwine's previous big top 40 hits, Pony and Differences, were slow ballads with Ginuwine playing the intense lover. Ginuwine has done dance songs before but Hell Yeah, from his The Senior CD, is the first one that's really crossed over. Ginuwine was written and produced by R. Kelly. Kelly's had lots of success over the years but this must be the hottest period of his career. In early 2003, he's had a #1 pop hit with Ignition and two more big hits that he wrote and produced: Bump, Bump, Bump and Hell Yeah. Hell Yeah ranks somewhere between the brilliant Ignition and catchy, annoying Bump, Bump, Bump. Hell's Yeah's beeping synth line and light, sweeping beat create a relaxed, slithery, steady jam. Hell Yeah is also repetitious and feels pretty lightweight. Baby from Big Tymers does an unremarkable rap about "big pimpin'" and how "we fresh" with Lexuses, guns and minks but Ginuwine's vocal is controlled, strong, quick and supple. He gives some weight to a pretty slight song. Kelly again lacks the brilliance lyrically he has musically. When I first heard Hell Yeah, I thought, with its evocation of head bobbin' thugs and booty shakin "chicks", it was mocking the standard celebration of submissive women and free flowing, expensive champagne and other alcohol. Instead, Hell Yeah is the standard celebration, though Kelly adds his own distinctively odd love of women, paying tribute with the line: she's"givin' me head like she's a brain donor."
Godsmack - Awake
Weeks on Chart: 24 Peak: # 9 (Dec. 2000) buy it!
The title track from the new Awake CD is more nasty, unappetizing hard rock from Godsmack. Awake is similar to Keep Away from their last record. Awake has headbanging guitars and Sully Erna's angry screamed and growled vocals. On Awake, he seems to be blaming another for his problems and says, "I hope you're satisfied."
Godsmack - Bad Magick
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: # 24 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
The band that found success by mixing heavy metal, misogyny and witchcraft are back with the third chart hit from their Awake CD. On Bad Magick, Sully Erna continues to act like one of the biggest jerks in rock music. He sings about not wanting to get negative energy from someone "looking at the world with dying eyes." Erna shows his genius and charm with the characterization: "you stare at it dead and you're giving it head."
Godsmack - Bad Religion
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: # 21 (Aug. 2000) buy it!
Rock radio continues to die, as it targets an audience that mainly consists of teenage males. Godsmack is a prime example of what's wrong with the format. Their hard guitar rock is murky, unexciting and pretentious. Their lyrics are a weird combination of self pity, mysticism and self aggrandizement. On Bad Religion, the latest AOR hit from their self title CD, Sully Erna sings about how he's different from other people, that the pressure he faces is making him insane and that no one understands what he has to deal with.
Godsmack - Greed
Weeks on Chart: 23 Peak: # 26 (June 2001) buy it!
The second single from the Awake CD is similar to the title track but even harsher and less appealing. Singer Sully Erna is a devout Wiccan and Greed has a bit of a spiritual sound but the song is just nasty, not exotic. The guitars thump and thud as Erna howls, "hey little bitch, be glad you finally walked away or you may have not lived another day." Amid the despicable misogyny we're supposed to empathize with Erna for feeling smothered and in need of help.
Godsmack - I Stand Alone
Weeks on Chart: 18 Peak: # 13 (May 2002) buy it!
I Stand Alone is from the soundtrack of the The Rock's film vehicle The Scorpion King. I don't hate I Stand Alone quite as much as some of the Godsmack music I've had to review over the last couple years. That's doesn't say much since their songs have been among my least favorite in the top 50. I Stand Alone is slower and less dense than some of Godsmack's music but, with a grinding guitar and a melody somewhat like Alive's, it's still pretty heavy and dark. I Stand Alone gives us another view of Sully Erna's nasty, paranoid worldview which places him alone among people trying to "take me down." On I Stand Alone, Erna howls a warning that he'll "break" someone who wants to "control me".
Godsmack - Keep Away
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 24 (Oct. 1999) buy it!
Keep Away, from the band's self titled debut, is more angry rock directed at young males and it's hard to imagine much appeal beyond its target audience. Keep Away has big guitars and growled vocals warning someone who's taken advantage of the singer in the past, to "stay away from me."
Godsmack - Realign
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 25 (March 2004) buy it!
Godsmack are still one of my least favorite bands. But I don't dislike Realign, the fourth chart hit on the Faceless CD, as much as most of Godsmack's music. That's largely because Realign is less about Sully Erna's cold, self righteous singing than usual. Realign has a big, pretty good hard rock sound. Realign's verses are fairly typical, unpleasant Godsmack. With Erna snarling, they sound like Awake, Straight Out Of Line and other songs. The chorus is more enjoyable. Tony Rambola plays a good rising set of chords and Erna's vocal is relatively restrained. Realign, especially in Erna's vocal, is not very likable but, at least, it's not as nasty and combative as some of the band's songs. Realign is about trying to get out of a life of apathy, confusion and "decisions made from desperation" where Erna's fears came alive.
Godsmack - Running Blind
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 10 (May 2004) buy it!
The Other Side is a seven song acoustic ep that includes new songs and new versions of older Godsmack songs. The Other Side seems like an attempt to show that Godsmack are serious artists like Alice In Chains and Nirvana, who released similar acoustic records. Knowing that Staind and others scored top 40 hits with restrained, introspective rock, Godsmack may also be trying to cross over from modern rock to pop radio. Current fans may appreciate the new spin on Godsmack's sound, but it's unlikely it will gain the band a lot of new fans. Running Blind's problem is Sully Erna. I prefer quiet Sully to howling Sully but Erna really isn't suited to doing mellow and thoughtful. Though it's hard to feel sympathy for someone who regularly makes offensive, obnoxious music and has millions of young male fans, Running Blind kind of makes me feel sorry for Erna. I assume he really is trying to make a sensitive statement, he just has no idea how to do it. He doesn't have an empathetic, vulnerable voice. Instead of sounding depressed or sad, Erna still sounds pissed off. He also sounds like he might have a bad stomachache. Erna's cliched songwriting doesn't help. Erna doesn't come up with any imagery that hasn't been used repeatedly in songs by troubled young guys. He has "broken wings" and is "crawling on my knees" and looking for something "to keep me from drowning." Apparently, Sully took a woman for granted thinking: "if I showed you I could fly, wouldn't need anyone by my side." Running Blind's music is fine. With earnestly strummed guitars and quiet percussion, it has all the trappings of a decent MTV Unplugged performance. Tony Rambola plays a pretty good acoustic guitar solo. But Erna's rigid, cold vocal keeps Running Blind from being interesting or appealing.
Godsmack - Serenity
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: # 8 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
Serenity is the second chart hit from Godsmack's Faceless CD. He has a lot of competition but I continue to find Godsmack's Sully Erna one of the most unappealing popular singers around. In Serenity, written by Erna and guitar player Tony Rambola, Erna sings about closing his eyes, taking a deep breath and "cradling your inner child" but his delivery is typically antagonistic. Erna doesn't rant or yell on Serenity. But his odd moan has a forboding, threatening quality that doesn't fit the the lyric or music. Serenity's music is interesting. Godsmack largely eschew rock band insturumentation. They make decent use of eastern sounds and percussion and create a textured, atmospheric feel. But, like on Godsmack's Voodoo, the mystical appeal of the music is steamrollered by Erna's negative energy. His intensity prevents Serenity from achieving a sense of serene spirituality. Rather than calming, Serenity puts me on edge.
Godsmack - Straight Out Of Line
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: # 6 (March 2003) buy it!
Straight Out Of Line is from the angry Boston based hard rockers' Faceless CD. The CD's title is a great straight line but, unlike a lot of their interchangable nu-metal contemporaries, I don't think Godsmack's music lacks personality. I just find it really unpleasant. Straight Out Of Line is a fairly typical Godsmack song. I suppose Godsmack are effective at creating an edgy sound the kids can relate to. Sully Erna bellows his rage at his enemies while the band creates a dark, ominous mood. Tony Rombola's guitar threateningly rumbles, slashes and booms. On Straight Out Of Line, Erna complains about unnamed people(maybe critics) who "lie to me" and force him to "justify my ways." I understand that Godsmack's music speaks to troubled young male rock fans but it just strikes me as nasty.
Godsmack - Voodoo
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: # 6 (April 2000) buy it!
Voodoo closes out Godsmack's self titled CD. It creates a decent mystical atmosphere with drumbeats and minimal instrumentation. However, Sully Erna's very serious vocals, as he sings "I'm not the one who's so far away, when I feel the snake bite enter my veins" over and over, are too pretentious.
Goo Goo Dolls - Big Machine
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 37 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Goo Goo Dolls keep putting out a mix of tame, soaring rock ballads and harder, but still poppy, rockers in an effort to maintain mainstream pop success and hold onto their older audience. Dizzy Up The Girl followed pop rocker Slide with lofty ballad Black Balloon. The first single from the Gutterflower CD was mellow Here Is Gone and the new one is mid tempo rock song Big Machine. Big Machine is a glossy rocker that's a lot like Slide with a little less concision, energy and distinction(I enjoyed how the drums came in right before the chorus on Slide). I still basically enjoy Big Machine. lt's totally forgetable but amiable. Johnny Rzeznik plays good guitar. Tight power chords alternate with a ringing guitar line that I like but reminds me of the one from 10,000 Maniacs' pleasant but hardly rocking Candy Everybody Wants. The lyrics have the "you're screwed up but I'm still sad you don't want to be with me" theme of songs by sensitive rockers like Weezer's Gone Fishin'. Rzeznik sings about waiting, torn in pieces for a woman who's "so vain" and living in a world moving "way too fast" where "nothing's real and nothing lasts."
Goo Goo Dolls - Black Balloon
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 2 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
Only a few years ago, it seemed that Goo Goo Dolls were doomed to an O.K career as a n ot particularly original but fun, solid rocking band who readily admitted being influe nced by the Replacements and other post punk bands. Then they discovered the rock ball ad and their career has taken off. They stumbled on the formula with Name from a Boy N amed Goo. Then they had a monster hit with the appealing but overblown, string laden I ris, from the City of Angels soundtrack. Iris, along with Black Balloon and Slide, is also included on Dizzy Up the Girl. So far, Goo Goo Dolls have been able to keep their cred with rock radio by mixing harder songs like Dizzy with the slow ones. But with B lack Balloon, Goo Goo Dolls are in danger of seeming like an easy listening band. It' s hard to call it a sell out. It's natural that the band would slow down as it gets ol der but Goo Goo Dolls are getting dangerously close to background music. Black Balloon , Johnny Rzeznik's sad, sincere tribute to someone the world didn't understand is well made but it's also a little boring.
Goo Goo Dolls - Broadway
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 3 (May 2000) buy it!
Goo Goo Dolls continue to walk the tightrope, trying to show they still rock while not offending their big, new mainstream audience. Broadway, the fifth chart hit from their 1998 CD Dizzy Up The Girl, is tuneful and again shows the band to be genial, efficient rockers. The music and the Johnny Rzeznik's lyrics, about a guy wasting his time at the bar and prematurely giving up on life, are O.K. but don't have much depth.
Goo Goo Dolls - Here Is Gone
Weeks on Chart: 19 Peak: # 3 (April 2002) buy it!
Ever since Goo Goo Dolls stumbled onto the path to success with Name, the one ballad among the post punk rockers on 1995's A Boy Named Goo, there's been no stopping them. They still play some rockers(though they're generally not as fast and rough as they used to be) but hits like Iris and Black Balloon, from their Dizzy Up The Girl CD, have made the sensitive rock ballad Goo Goo Dolls' trademark sound. Here Is Gone, the first single from the Gutterflower CD, shows they have the hit making formula down pat and are apparently going to use it for as long as they can. Here Is Gone is like Black Balloon with a touch of Slide's sleek pop rock sound. The music is lush and full with a good layered guitar sound. Here Is Now is well made but far too polished and predictable for my liking. In a heartfelt vocal, Johnny Rzeznik sings about a disappointing relationship that's doomed by his partner's fears and lack of control.
Good Charlotte - The Anthem
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: # 6 (April 2003) buy it!
The second hit from the Young and the Hopeless CD solidifies Good Charlotte's position as the most successful of the current large group of bands with punk attitude and a pop sound. Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous was really stupid but Good Charlotte are generally among the most appealing members of their peer group. Good Charlotte's leaders, twin brothers Benji and Joel Madden, have a self deprecating charm and don't seem as dopey as some of the competition. The Anthem is smart enough to have it both ways, employing perky, simple music and mocking its simplicity. Similarly, The Anthem admits the banality of its message. Still, the lyrics about bring bored and misunderstood in high school and wanting to be different undoubtedly connect with the kids. Most importantly, with its fast pace and upbeat feel, has a fun sound. Benji's guitar lines are very familiar but good. The power chords flow around the song, supplying a bit of variation as their speed and intensity rise and fall. Joel's yelling is unpretentious and not too obnoxious. The Anthem is fairly dopey but its self effacing style and high energy lift it above similar songs.
Good Charlotte - Girls And Boys
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 33 (Sept. 2003) buy it!
Good Charlotte's previous singles were fast punky pop. Girls And Boys, the third hit from the Young and the Hopeless CD, shows that Good Charlotte can make fun, kind of dopey music in different styles. Girls and Boys uses sounds from the shiny pop of the early 70s and late 80s. Girls and Boys is ridiculously catchy. The band keeps a string of hooks coming. Girls and Boys has a primitive sounding keyboard line reminiscent of Gary Numan's Cars. The climactic guitar break is like the one on Rick Springfield's Jessie's Girl. The chorus, with its crunching power chords, has the simple exuberance of a good emo song(e.g. Jimmy Eat World's Lucky Denver Mint). Singer Joel Madden doesn't have much range. His vocal isn't versatile enough to match Girls and Boys' transitions but his basic yelling matches the song's simple, upbeat feel. The lyric is fairly harsh for a perky pop song. Joel sings that girls atttracted to wealthy guys are "losing their souls in a material world." But the cynical lyric hardly detracts from Girls and Boys' lightweight charm.
Good Charlotte - Hold On
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 33 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
Hold On is the fourth single from Good Charlotte's The Young and the Hopeless CD. Good Charlotte have recently established that they're not just empty headed punks. Boys and Girls was fun, smart power pop. Hold On is also slower than the punky pop Good Charlotte made their name playing. Hold On is less interesting musically than Boys and Girls but fine. The verses are genial, generic guitar pop like Lifehouse's Spin(which I quite like) and Hanging By A Moment. The simple singalong chorus, introduced by big drums that tell you something important is about to happen, is even more anthemic than Good Charlotte's The Anthem, which mocked but also used tricks that make a catchy rock hit. Especially in the context of a poignant lyric, Drummer Chris Wilson and guitar players Benji Madden and Billy Martin's varied, muscular approaches create a big, powerful sound. Hold On's biggest draw is its lyric. Hold On, which has a moving video featuring people who lost friends and family to suicide, tries to convince kids that even if "no one seems to care" and you feel "pain you can not bare", life will get "better than you know." The further Good Charlotte moves away from punk, the more Joel Madden's voice is tested. On Hold On, he's often off key and a bit whiny but his sincere delivery overcomes some of his technical shortcomings. He's also helped by Hold On's sweeping music, which maintain an optimistic atmosphere. Hold On is pretty basic but its music is effective and its message to troubled adolescents is terrific.
Good Charlotte - Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous
Weeks on Chart: 20 Peak: # 12 (Jan. 2003) buy it!
I like twin brothers Joel and Benji, Good Charlotte's singer and guitar player, as hosts of MTV's All Things Rock. They're pleasant, self deprecating and not too stupid. I certainly prefer them to the blond bimbo who seems to have replaced them. But Good Charlotte's good nature isn't enough to make me like the single from their The Young and The Hopeless CD. Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous feels a little stale. Wasn't the tv show the song's named after on more than 20 years ago? And the choices of famous people to exemplify famous person misbehavior, O.J. Simpson and Marion Barry, aren't exactly fresh. Lifestyles also suffers musically from similarity to other poppy punksters. If anything distinguishes Lifestyles from recent hits by New Found Glory, Sum 41, I'm missing it. With big, upbeat drums, high energy vocals and a catchy chorus, Lifestyles is pleasant and easy to listen to, like a perky cover band's version of Iggy's Lust For Life but it's so unimaginative and unoriginal that it barely gets my attention. Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous has the punky/Robin Hood premise that since the rich and famous are self pitying, they deserve to be taught a lesson by having their mansions burglarized or being forced to live on the street. It doesn't address how a modicum of fame and riches will effect Good Charlotte though, in their defense, I don't think they'll be "always complaining." Good Charlotte seem like nice guys. Too bad their single's music and lyrics aren't more interesting.
Gorillaz - Clint Eastwood
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: # 10 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Gorillaz is Blur's Damon Albarn's side project. Gorillaz is a pretty cool idea. Their self titled record provides the soundtrack to an alternative cartoon. On Clint Eastwood, the execution is pretty cool too. Clint Eastwood has a relaxed stroll of a groove, with atmospheric keyboards including a moody harmonica type effect. Albarn alternates vocals with a good, smooth rapper. In my mind, Albarn is the weak link on Clint Eastwood. His slacker vocals cross the line from cool to complacent and self satisfied.
Green Day - Minority
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 11 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
Fans who were concerned with the maturity Billie Joe Armstrong showed on Time Of Your Life from the Nimrod CD can be reassured by Minority, the first single from the Warning CD. Minority has the likably simple feel that made Green Day a huge success on their Dookie CD. Billie Joe sings that he doesn't want to be a conformist and is happy to stand alone.
Green Day - Warning
Weeks on Chart: 17 Peak: # 4 (Jan. 2001) buy it!
The joyful songs Church On Sunday and Waiting are my favorites from the Warning CD but the title track is a decent pick for a second single. It's a good example of how solid and unpretentious the new record is. Green Day have become a little more mature without being too serious. Warning reminds me of John Mellancamp's sturdy rock songs, especially Crumblin' Down. Mike Dirnt's chunky bass line keeps the song moving forward as Billie Joe invokes a series of warnings we grew up with that suggest dangers all around us.
Guster - Amsterdam
Weeks on Chart: 15 Peak: # 32 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Guster is a Boston band that developed a large following playing lots of gigs with two acoustic guitars and bongos. The guys have since gone electric but they've maintained a simple upbeat sound. Amsterdam, from the Keep It Together CD, is a strong candidate for feel good song of the summer. It's lightweight but very charming. On Amsterdam, Guster remind me of the jangly, perky guitar bands that sprung up in the mid 80s after REM had their initial success. It rides forward easily with a variety of vigorous but smooth strums, a bit of jangling and a crisp, clicking beat. Amsterdam has a pleasant, shiny sound. Ryan Miller's voice isn't amazing but it is warm and good natured. Amsterdam lacks edge and it's kind of saccharine. It does have a likable, clean cut sound with a nice, positive energy. While Amsterdam has a jaunty sound its lyric, written by drummer Brian Rosenworcel, is quite nasty. Amsterdam's giddiness apparently reflects the joy of a spurned lover at the prospect of finding revenge in a nasty letter.
Guster - Careful
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 38 (Feb. 2004) buy it!
Guster appeared on MTV2's Album Covers show, playing the songs on the Violent Femmes' first record. Their precise versions showed that Guster are good musicians with a taste for jagged, idiosyncratic music that's surprisingly for a band with such a genial, clean cut sound. The faithfulness of the covers, the refusal to deviate in any significant way, also was a reminder of the lack of surprise and edge in Guster's music. Careful, the second chart hit from Guster's Keep It Together CD, is another example of Guster's likable, fairly predictable style. Careful is well played and inviting. It has warm harmonies and Ryan Miller's lead vocal is appealingly unpretentious. Guster have largely stuck with the simple acoustic arrangements that first got people's attention. Their shiny jangles and strums are clean and crisp. Brian Rosenworcel gives Guster's music good texture with good quiet, varied percussion that avoids standard rock drummer pounding. Careful's downside is that it's awfully like a lot of Guster's other songs. Its sound is so smooth and easy to take that it's kind of boring. Like Amsterdam, Careful has a dark lyric that belies its sunny music. Careful warns a girlfriend who walks out "when I asked you to stay" that she'll "hurt yourself" in a world where "others lie." Miller tells her he's the one who tells her the truth and she'll be "back again" to him.
Guster - Fa Fa(Never Be The Same)
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 46 (May 2000) buy it!
Never Be The Same is the followup to the near hit Barrel of a Gun from the band's Lost & Gone Forever CD. Like Dave Matthews and Phish, Guster have apparently listened to some Grateful Dead and like a loose, hip groove. Guster's sound is more minimal, largely based around acoustic guitars but it also has good texture. Never Be The Same has flute, bongos, chimes and horns. Guster's sound is interesting but the lack of a rock and roll charge limits its appeal. The music is more interesting than the lyrics, about a woman who's never satisfied, "always saying something you swear you'll never say again" who'll always end up where she was before.