Market saturation is a terrible thing. It is the multi-headed harbinger of music’s greatest foes; monotony and sameness. It spews forward in endless amounts, permeating our living rooms, our car stereos and our toned-into-repetition minds with alarming effectiveness, diluting our most wicked of senses. Our fabled music industry has deftly mastered the art of flooding; turning morsels of decent ideas into tsunamis of unexceptional trivia. If these waves were not damaging enough to our fragile landscapes, then the one-hand-in-our-wallets-fake-wink-of-the-eye routine they pull is about as insulting as our often naïve commercial drive to buy into this junk. It is unfortunate, this market saturation thing, because Mando Diao will ultimately suffer from inherent retro-rock backlash. It is an unfair predicament to be in because these fun packed Swedes (yes, Sweden – can’t escape from it can they?) have written a record filled with some of the finest beat influenced rock jangles this side of the 50’s and 60’s.
Bring Em In is sharp musings of said time period, one that merely seems to have been displaced in our chronological continuum. Unlike many of their current counterparts who update bygone sounds with modern narrative, chic jive and pretentious overtones; Mando Diao cavorts in gifted historical association. They are a cosmic rekindling of The Who with graceful sprinklings of bluesy guitars and an uncaring sense of freedom that remains through the eras. It’s the sort of underlying rhythmic sentiment that reflects in the ‘My Generations’ of this world – ultimately unending and timeless.
“Sheepdog” is the frontrunner, equipped with paralyzing percussion punching and the strong pull from the frenzied bass and guitar partnership that only compliments the track’s vocal competence. It evokes the same high-energy as an “I Can’t Explain”, a wide-eyed-grab-you-by-the-throat awakening. It forms an exciting one-two punch with “Sweet Ride”, the album’s ultimate highway hotrod soundtrack; a roaring compositional flurry with just a tad of harmonic love suited best for that blistering open road wind in your hair.
Mando Diao are simply fantastic in these depictions of moments. Take the organ soaked “Mr. Moon” as an example. Its jaded nature and solemn approach is rich in its passing affection, the quiet lonesome spiral caught by the words, “I wanna love you but I’m growing old / Ten little soldiers screaming in my soul / The day is using up its final breath / I’ve never been so sure”. The track is in distinct contrast to “The Band”, a spirited homage to pulsing beat rock; with its organ driven 50’s fueled guitar flustering and wailing vocal harmonies, it screams wild fun-filled nights of letting go.
There is a seamless transition between these more fussy rock anecdotes and those with an abundance more blues and soul. While they certainly do pay tribute, the album comes off not as some hackneyed, indiscernible paean; but each track an accomplishment in its own. “Motown Blood” oozes dirty swamp boogie pizzazz with its funkdooby bass thumping and blues groove, the likes of which B.B King would praise, and it doesn’t feel merely content at being so – influenced, but not dependent.
This seamlessness is quite the strength, you may bounce around from mop-top British rock n’ roll but when you hit the hot heat of America’s south, it’s an incredibly accepting welcome. Perhaps the album’s lone weakness lies in the closing “Lauren’s Cathedral”, the obligatory southern-tinged ballad that feels like the slow setting sun. While certainly less taking than the previous numbers, it manages to crawl into some salvation, a fitting reflective dissolve of sorts.
Oh woe to our music industry for trying to milk too much of a good thing; if it weren’t for the recent deluge of decent to good rock bands that have more than satiated a certain licentious craving for the rock n’ roll zenith, Mando Diao would be on their way to this unsurpassed apex – ultimately sharing the same podium with those sanctified. Nonetheless, those who are unfazed by the wealth of choice will see that Bring Em In is blessed with the same aura of excitement that 1965’s My Generation had, an exhilaration felt while spinning the record for the very first time, an undying importance that no amount of waterlog can sink.
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.