It isn’t out of the ordinary that we often seek refuge in words and sounds. Whether we are looking for mere comfort or a much more significant healing, music has, willingly or not, been a source for such recovery. And for those who pen and create these vessels of refuge, it is a most personal form of catharsis. It is difficult to discern the ideology or motives behind a band’s work – its raison d’être usually known only to those who created it – but in a case like this, it seems endlessly more difficult.
Feeder lost their drummer Jon Lee to suicide in early 2002 and this album is the studio work that followed his untimely departure. Aptly titled ‘Comfort in Sound’, it is more than just an album of reflection or homage, it appears to be the resulting cathartic experience of primary song writer Grant Nicholas. The album in its entirety is effectively a well-written emulsion of rock inspired pop sensibilities. While the album on occasion feels overly grief-stricken, it is when we take a look at the finer parts that we finally see a band ultimately reaching its potential.
The instrumentation is mostly simplistic – but it is conducive to some of the album’s less melancholic moments. The opening track “Just the Way I’m Feeling” is a juxtaposition of reflective lyrical humming (“Love in, love out / Find the feeling / Scream in, Scream out / Time for healing / You feel the moment’s gone too soon / You’re watching clouds come over you”) with savvy pop friendly rock. Its vocal driven verse is a prelude to its immense sounding choral release – symbolic of perhaps, just the way Nicholas was feeling.
While there is certainly an underlying tone of healing, some tracks mask this with a more strident approach. In the single “Come Back Around”, the expressive gloom (“Bruised with all rejection / we suffer the breaks”) is interlaced in a vibrant rock track – louder and far more biting than the majority of the album’s manner. It directs you into the fuzzed out “Helium”, its drum pounding and screeching guitar work is then smeared by the almost sweet chorus. “Child in You” is best a quiet ambience; sorrowful and intuitive with seemingly hopeful lyrics; “Close your eyes and drift away to someplace new / Where the skies are blue brings back the child in you” – but captures a more bitter consolation than anything else.
It is in the track “Comfort in Sound” that Nicholas is at his greatest; the healing musician. Tinged with delicate traces of keyboards, profound vocal work and the album’s strongest song structure, it is with this track that perhaps, they have truly found comfort. The sound certainly radiates a reflective nature and its lyrics, the most poignant, “We suffer love together as one / an empty heart with nowhere to turn / we find ourselves looking / back another way / a brand new day”. In a strange twist of events, there are some moments that feel overly aggressive – take the track “Godzilla” for instance; powerful guitars, grating vocals and those thumping drums are seemingly lost, an odd inclusion in this mostly thoughtful effort. Thankfully Nicholas’ aggressive tendencies fade fast, and in the album’s last four tracks, that willful, somber approach is once again adopted; from the distinctly sullen “Quick Fade” to the more vocal “Love Pollution” and the gracious ender “Moonshine”, with perhaps the final mark of respect (“But every time we cry / We wave the sun goodbye.”)
While we cannot say whether or not these lyrical tributes of reflection and healing are of the band’s personal tribulations, it is safe to say that if this album is homage of sorts – it certainly is a noble one; for whomever it is meant for. ‘Comfort in Sound’ is not an innovation or revelation, it is simply what the title states.
(Echo / Republic / Universal)
Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs EP
Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper
For a large number of Alice Cooper fans who didn’t experience everyone’s favorite snake-adorned shock rocker at the height of his powers through the ’70s, most probably were introduced to Cooper through 1989’s hair-metal infused generational breakout album Trash. That was at least, my introduction to Vincent Furnier, at the age of 9 years old, seeking for something to satiate my love of hair metal and shock rock. Trash was everything Bon Jovi’s New Jersey was- big, radio-friendly- but had that added sense of danger and darkness that didn’t come with the pretty side of hair metal. However, as sure as songs like “House of Fire“, “Bed of Nails“, and the ubiquitous hit “Poison”, are still great today, long-time Alice Cooper fans know that Cooper is at his most enthralling is when he taps into his garage rock lineage, cut from the same mold that was paved by bands like the MC5.
So for those born in the early 80s like myself, the initial foray into the world of Alice Cooper meant that you had to work your way back into this long-running discography to find the rich, often timeless work Cooper is best known for. In 2019 Alice Cooper himself is working his way back on his latest EP, the aptly titled Breadcrumbs. The 6-song EP finds Cooper revisiting music and artists connected thematically by what ties them all together- the Motor City. This Detroit-centric EP features Alice Cooper’s take on songs by Suzi Quatro, The Dirtbombs, Motown soul singer Shorty Long, and of course, The MC5 (the EP also features guest guitar and vocal work from Wayne Kramer). Included in the mix are a reworked version of the 2003 Alice Cooper song “Detroit City” and one new cut, “Go Man Go”.
On his reworked “Detroit City”, the song is given a rawer makeover, sounding far less produced than the original. Gone are the orchestral overdubs with the song relying more on the loud bluesy guitars- perhaps the way it was meant to sound. Suzi Q’s “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” stays fairly faithful to the original, but Quatro’s vocal sneer is replaced with.. well, Alice Cooper’s vocal sneer. MC5’s “Sister Anne” is almost as great as the original 1971version, with the added benefit of today’s production qualities.
The EP’s one new track, “Go Man Go”, is very much Detroit, and very much Alice Cooper. It’s rock n’ roll roots are coated with a little bit of rockabilly, a little bit of garage, a lot of attitude. Like this EP, the track should be a precursor of Alice Cooper’s anticipated next album. The hope is that he continues this work of keeping things dirty rock n’ roll as the results are more often than not, pretty great.
Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper. Breadcrumbs is a noble effort meant to tease and build anticipation than satisfy your craving for all new Alice Cooper material. It’s done just that, hinting at what could be around the corner. On top of which it shows that there are few rock stars who will ever reach the status and longevity of everyone’s favorite rock n’ roll snake charmer.
Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill
The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good
One of the most remarkable things about the Goo Goo Dolls is their steadfast consistency amongst the ever-changing backdrop of popular music. Six years ago when they released Magnetic, I wrote that the band remained unchanged in the face of their supposed “waning popularity” in the eyes of pop culture and radio charts. It’s true that many of their contemporaries that made it big alongside them in the late 1990s are long gone, but for the Goos, they’ve quietly continued to be above everything else, themselves, just older, wiser, and continuingly more refined. Miracle Pill is their 12th studio album and is the natural progression from 2016’s Boxes. Like their previous release, Miracle Pill continues their musical evolution away from alternative rock to the more serene territory of adult contemporary. Sure, it may sound like a bad thing, but like everything the Goos have done over the past 25 years, it’s supremely confident and composed.
They may not write songs with the caustic bite like “Here Is Gone” anymore, but they have been finding comfort in the more introspective pop-strewn melodies found in songs like “Lights”. Similarly, in the new album’s lead single and title track, the Goos tap into bouncy, easy-to-digest pop empowerment. Songs like “Indestructible” show that the band haven’t put down their guitars just yet, constructing songs that are still fond of their alternative rock roots but have found comfort in grander, more expansive sounds.
The album’s best moments are when the Goo Goo Dolls unashamedly tug on the heartstrings like they’ve done so many times before. The quiet jangly nature of “Over You” does this particularly well, while the bigger, electronic-infused arena rock of “Lost” shows that this type of music is just done extremely poorly by bands like Imagine Dragons. “Autumn Leaves” is a throwback to the kind of songs found on Let Love In and Dizzy Up The Girl, sounding organic and wistful, while the closing of “Think It Over” is the kind of song they’ve been hinting at since Something For The Rest Of Us. It’s part quintessential Goos, but contemporary and timeless at the same time.
Credit to the Robby Takac songs of the album too- “Step In Line”, “Life’s a Message”- both some of the finest songs Takac has written. He is often cast in the shadow of John Rzeznik’s more recognizable sound, but on Miracle Pill, his work is the best its sounded since Dizzy.
The Ringer recently wrote a piece titled ‘The Goo Goo Dolls Were Never the Cool Kids, but They’re Still Standing’. I echoed these sentiments in that Magnetic review years ago, but if there was anything long time Goo Goo Dolls fans know is that the band were never concerned about popularity or being “cool”. The problem with being cool in music is that it fades. The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good. Not much has changed in that sense, and really, that’s much better than being cool.