Phil X

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “This House is Not For Sale” (single)

BON JOVI – “This House is Not For Sale” (2016 Island single)

THE GOOD: Decent song, a little bit of rock, some tasty guitar work from Phil X, very much another Bon Jovi singalong for the working man.

THE BAD: More of the same. We’ve heard Bon Jovi do this exact kind of song many times over the last 15 years. Apparently the addition of Phil X hasn’t injected much new into the sound.

THE UGLY: It’s nice to see Phil X and Hugh McDonald on the cover art…but why did it take 20 years to finally put a picture of Hugh on the cover?

The new Bon Jovi album This House is Not For Sale will be out October 21. It’s far too early to judge, but the lead single doesn’t indicate that much has changed in Jovi Land. If you liked their last bunch of albums (basically everything from Have a Nice Day to Burning Bridges) then you’ll enjoy “This House is Not For Sale”.

3/5 stars

THIS HOUSE

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REVIEW: Triumph – Edge of Excess (1992)

Bought in Taranna at Kops for $2.50!


 

Scan_20160102TRIUMPH – Edge of Excess (1992 Virgin)

When Triumph split in ’87, Rik Emmett went off in a pop direction leaving his two bandmates with no singer/guitar player, and without their most recognizable member.  As bassist Mike Levine said in M.E.A.T Magazine, “We couldn’t just be Duo-umph”.  Since Triumph always had two lead singers in Rik Emmett and drummer Gil Moore, this time Gil simply stepped up and sang everything.  Then they needed a guitar player.  Gil and Mike Levine wrote and recorded most of Edge of Excess with Mladen Zarron in Toronto, before hiring ex-Frozen Ghost (current Bon Jovi) shredder Phil X.  Five years after the split, the new Triumph emerged with a heavier and darker album, Edge of Excess.

Triumph boldly opened the album with a whole minute of nothing but bluesy guitar noise.  If there was a stronger way to say “We don’t need Rik,” I don’t know what that would be.  This guitar noise serves as an intro to the first Triumph song without Emmett, “Child of the City”, a harder edged Triumph song with the same kind of hooks.  It’s hard to determine who is playing lead guitar, Mladen or Phil X, but rest assured that whoever it is has laid waste to the land.  Rik Emmett wasn’t just a shredder, but a talented player who composed his solos with class and ability.  Mladen and Phil have done the same, but without emulating Rik.  (Phil’s going to have his work cut out for him in Bon Jovi, though.)

The rip-roaring “Troublemaker”, easily the fastest and heaviest Triumph track to date, was featured on the soundtrack to Hellraiser III, and it’s easy to see why.  It’s as close to speed metal as Triumph have been, and I shouldn’t need to tell you that again the solos shred.  Who’s playing?  Fucked if I know, there are three guys credited on the song.  The song is actually very close to high-octane Whitesnake and it would be easy to imagine Coverdale’s crew doing it.

Lest you think that ballads were a thing of Triumph’s past, “It’s Over” has a country & western feel. Unfortunately of the two singers, Moore had the less commercial voice.  This is where Gil’s voice reveals its limitations.  On backing vocals, some big names are on hand such as Fred Coury of Cinderella and Steve DeMarchi of Sheriff, to help beef up the big chorus.  It’s not enough to make a memorable song.  They cook up some groove on the title track, tapping the vein of Van Hagar.  But without Rik Emmett, Triumph lost part of what made their unique sound.  On Edge of Excess it’s too easy to compare them to contemporaries.  “Turn My Back on Love” is better, occupying a dirty mid-tempo groove, and with Phil X handling all the guitars himself.  The big chorus is the closest thing to old Triumph on the album.

That’s the side; the second one opens with “Ridin’ High Again”, a sleezy rocker that sounds like Don Dokken emigrating to Canada.  Phil X really can shred though, and anyone who’s curious what he can do should check it out.  I don’t think Phil will be able to play to his strengths in his new band, so give this a listen and hear the guy blaze like Vai meets Van Halen.  “Black Sheep” starts as a total surprise; a blues right in the middle of the album.  No drums, just claps.  Sadly instead of sticking with this, it transforms into a stock hard rocker.  “Boy’s Nite Out” has a grammatically incorrect title:  The lyrics are clear that it is not a boy’s night out, but “the boys”, plural.  It should therefore be called “Boys’ Nite Out”.  Here I am bitching about the grammar and not the word “Nite”…anyway, back to the song.  Standard rocker.  Plenty of great shreds, but this album is far too burdened by generic rockers.  Rik Emmett used to bring a variety of influences to the table, and their albums with him may have had their weaknesses, but they were more diverse than Edge of Excess.  Without enough identity, Triumph forged a batch of largely forgettable bluesy hard rock songs.  Lots of crunch, not enough stick-to-your-brain hooks.

Fortunately the classy power ballad “Somewhere Tonight” helps wind things up properly.  Identity is still a problem, but at least this is a break in the rut the album had been in.  Right back into the rut for “Love in a Minute”, the last in a batch of heavily generic rock songs that sound like about a dozen bands…none of them Triumph.

Like any fan, I was pleased that Triumph kept going despite such a huge setback as losing your main guy.  Unfortunately the album they produced in ’92 was not up to par, and I guess that’s why it took me 23 years to finally buy it!  A couple good songs early in the album, but not much more.

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Methods of Mayhem – Methods of Mayhem (1999)

METHODS OF MAYHEM_0002METHODS OF MAYHEM – Methods of Mayhem (1999 Universal)

Tommy Lee’s vision was to marry guitar riffs to sick beats, and he quit Motley Crue in order to do it.  As his first album outside of the band he helped make famous, Lee enlisted many guest performers and producers: Kitchener Ontario’s own Scott Humphrey at the console, with Mixmaster Mike (Beastie Boys), George Clinton, Kid Rock, The Crystal Method, U-God (Wu-Tang Clan), Lil’ Kim, Snoop Dogg, Fred Durst, Phil X (Bon Jovi), Chris Chaney, and even Randy Jackson on bass.  Tommy also teamed up with a guy named TiLo and called him the other half of Methods of Mayhem.

Guest appearances like these don’t do much for me.  Methods of Mayhem must stand or fall on its songs.  Sick beats are one thing, but in my world you need songs too.  Could Tommy Lee and Scott Humphrey deliver?  Fresh out of jail with new ideas, Tommy set to work.

Tommy was clearly relishing the chance to act all gangsta after his much-publicized arrest and incarceration for assault.  The album opens with a recording from L.A. County Jail, and Tommy Lee trying to make a collect phone call.  Then the heavy riff of “Who the Hell Cares” crashes.  It’s extremely reminiscent of the kind of guitar riffs that Motley Crue were writing for their 1994 self-titled magnum opus.  I like Snoop Dogg’s trademark smoove style on it.  To me it’s not about the rapping, but the snaky and stomping guitars. In honestly, “Who the Hell Cares” sounds more like Motley Crue than a lot of New Tattoo!  This melds straight into “Hypocritical” which has a similar “Motley Rap” sound.  “Anger Management” (an obvious reference to Tommy’s personal issues) has yet another one of those heavy Motley riffs, making me question just how much Tommy wrote on that 1994 album.  Quite a bit, I’ll wager.  As much as I wanted to hate the album, I can’t.

The single “Get Naked” (with Clinton, Durst, Mixmaster Mike and Lil’ Kim) is really annoying.  Tommy references his porno tape, whoop de do.  This song sucks, especially lyrically.   Thankfully “New Thing” with Kid Rock is better, even though Kid uses the guest appearance to boast that he’s gone “five times platinum”.  Musically the song sounds like one of the ballads on Generation Swine…but marginally better.

“Proposition Fuck You” makes me laugh, but I’m easily amused.  This one is just straight rap, no rock. Cool techno hooks on “Crash” helps the song work its way into the skull.  I get the impression that this kind of song is where Motley Crue were trying to go on the aforementioned Generation Swine, but for some reason this is much better.  Same with “Metamorphosis” which sounds like, but surpasses most tunes on Generation Swine!

Milking his jail time once again, “Narcotic” opens with a phone recording with information about parolee’s upcoming drug tests…and then the sound of a joint burning.  It’s a tiring cliche.  “Forget about rehab! Gimme another one! The justice of my ass!”  These are some of the lyrics.  “Mr. Onsomeothershits” (ugh, come on) and “Spun” end the album on a so-so note.  Lots of beats and sounds, not a lot of songwriting.

It’s a rollercoaster affair, Methods of Mayhem.  It’s much better than you’d expect, but when it sucks, it sucks!

MOM ICONThe CD is enhanced, with screensavers, music videos, and a brief thing called “Making of Mayhem” which sheds little light on the actual creative process.  It’s no more than just a collage of people posing for the camera in the studio, unfortunately.  You will learn nothing about the making of the Methods of Mayhem album by watching the “Making of Mayhem” featurette.  Don’t you hate stuff like that?

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Avril Lavigne – Under My Skin (2004 w/ bonus track)

Yesterday, you read all about why I own this (and many others).  Will I still like it today?  Let’s find out.

AVRIL LAVIGNE – Under My Skin (2004 Arista)

Let’s get on with it.  The version of Under My Skin that I have comprises 13 songs, so let’s put the headphones on.   “Take Me Away” opens strongly with sparse, polished guitars and keyboards.  It sounds like Evanescence, actually.  It was written by Avril and her guitarist Evan Taubenfeld.  At this point, Avril wasn’t singing with any annoying contrivances in her voice.  She was just blasting away (most likely in autotune).  Given that this song is very produced and plasticized, it’s still a good song.  So far we’re 1/1.

AVRIL_0004“Together” is a bit too melodramatic for Mike 2014, but damn, I still love that fucking chorus. I’m singing along with my fist in the air.  Shit!  2/2.

One of several hit singles was the ballady “Don’t Tell Me”.  This one makes me want to vomit in my mouth a little bit.  I’m uncomfortable with this kind of teenybop rock now.  But that fucking chorus hits and…ahh fuck!  Still, the chorus can’t save the song, it’s shite.  2/3.

Avril returns to her so-called punk roots with “He Wasn’t”.  Phil X on guitar here, but he doesn’t get to solo (a damn shame).  As much as I want to hate the song, I can’t.  It seems pretty sincere, and it ain’t bad.  It’s snarky but not annoyingly so.  3/4 now.  “How Does It Feel” is a ballad, not a bad one either.  The instrumental production on this one (by Raine Maida) is excellent, although the vocals still sound autotuned.  Phil X again on guitar.  The score is now 4/5.

I’m a total sucker for the single “My Happy Ending”.  Butch Walker wrote a pretty cool song, and the chorus is one of those Avril bellows that she is known for.  The lyrics, like most of ’em, are about some dude.  I can’t really sing along to “He was everything, everything that I wanted,” sincerely, you know?  Still, the score is now 5/6.  And it’s going to go up to 6/7, because I remember liking the song “Nobody’s Home” a lot.  I’m not sure what the lyrics are exactly about, but Avril sounds like she’s trying to get serious, so that’s better than words about some dude.  Ben Moody from Evanescence itself co-wrote this one, so you can guess who it naturally reminds me of.  Still, I’ll maintain that 6/7 because the chorus is still great.

“Forgotten” starts out crap.  You sure can tell this one was written by Chantal Kreviazuk as that is who it sounds like.  The track doesn’t improve on the chorus.  Pass.  The board reads 6/8.   A good song called “Who Knows” is up next, and even though it wasn’t one of the single, I think it’s one of the best songs.  This one kind of sounds like a pop metal anthem, you could imagine a band like Warrant having a song like this.  It has mellow acoustic verses with a shout-y fun singalong chorus.  7/9 now!  “Fall To Pieces”, written with Raine Maida sounds like an Our Lady Peace outtake.    A pretty good outtake, with a great bridge.  Good enough for 8/10.

I have always liked “Freak Out”.  It’s just fun.  This one too sounds like a Raine Maida construction, but it is not.  It’s written by Butch Walker and Avril’s drummer Matt Brann.  It’s easier to listen to than most Our Lady Pea(ee-yai-ee-aye-ee)ce, so the score is now 9/11.  As my buddy Craig might say, it’s looking like it’s time to hand in my Man Card.

Maybe not!  “Slipped Away” is utter shite that I cannot listen to.  It sounds like Chantal…guess who wrote it?  The chorus is not too bad, but this song is crap.  Can’t take it.  If I could deduct 2 points, I would.  9/12.  It’s down to the “bonus track” now.  “I Always Get What I Want” originally came from a UK edition, but I bought this CD from my nearest Walmart.  There’s something on the fine print about Sony BMG Music Entertainment (UK) Ltd, so maybe that’s something to do with it.  “I Always Get What I Want” is another “punky” Avril, but like “Slipped Away”, it too is crap.  Sounds like Avril’s trying to be her heroes, Green Day.  No thank you.

The final score for Avril Lavigne’s Under My Skin is 9/13.  Did I like it as much now as I did in 2004?  Not quite.  It might have been that I liked a couple more of those sappy songs.  However, I’ve already said far too much here.  I’m going to cut my losses and get out now.

3.5/5 stars

#321: That Crush on Avril (RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale)

NEW SERIES

Welcome to the first of my new continuing series; the “Post-Record Store Tales” I’ve been talking about.  Here are the RECORD STORE TALES MkII:  Getting More Tale.  Featuring my Simon Pegg action figure as the new “Mini-LeBrain”! Title suggested by Aaron!

To quote David St. Hubbins, “Hope you like our new direction!”

LEBRAIN AND AVRIL

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II:  Getting More Tale

#321:  That Crush on Avril

One of those lingering points left after the conclusion of Record Store Tales was this: my unexplained, unusually large Avril Lavigne CD collection.  This is that tale.

When Avril’s first album arrived in 2002, I was encouraged to listen to it by a new hire at the Record Store.  “I hear that this album has some of the best pop songwriting that has come out in years,” he said.  “From a technical point of view.  I read that the album is just mathematically perfect, from a songwriting perspective.  Mind if we listen to it?”

“Sure,” I said.  “Throw it on.”  I scanned the credits.  Each song was co-written by big name mega-writers with more gold records than I have socks.  There were big name producers on every song, and some familiar names from my metal collection:  Josh Freese might be best known as the drummer in the Vandals (among many others) but I first heard his name in regards to Guns N’ Roses who he was with for a short time.  Another guy, Alessandro Elena, was the drummer in Bruce Dickinson’s Skunkworks.  (He’s the subject of their song, “I’m In a Band with an Italian Drummer.”)

I know that the album was mostly pre-fab, but I didn’t mind it.  Since I was limited in what I could usually listen to in-store, and Avril was fairly safe, I played it a lot.  I always recommended it to customers who were looking for new music for their kids, who thought Britney was getting too skanky.  As a bonus, punk kids seemed to hate her.  Eventually I bought a copy myself.

I probably annoyed the shit out of my co-workers.

AVRILAvril released her heavier second album (Under My Skin) in 2004, and this is where my crush really began. Avril had a new image and a new sound.  I don’t like thinking about that crush anymore; I have been mocked enough.  Hell, Craig Fee mocked me for it on the air just this past Wednesday!  It is true that I had a crush on Avril.  The new grown-up Avril had gothed out and turned up on the cover of Maxim.  Maxim agreed with me, just look at that headline!

Today, the thoughts of “Chavril”, that unholy union between Avril and Horse-man, makes me feel ill.  It’s like finding out your ex-girlfriend is now seeing that jock in school you just fucking hated.  We recently heard that Chavril was splitting.  If so, I say good for her!

So anyway, the second album: It had more names from my metal shelves.  In addition to Josh Freese, the legendary Kenny Aranoff and the astounding Brooks Wackerman played drums.  Phil X of Bon Jovi and Triumph was on axe.  Finally the Canadian duo of Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida were playing and co-writing on most songs too.  This is accompanied by an overall darker and harder approach.

I liked the album a lot in 2004.  Will I like it in 2014?  Let’s find out tomorrow, for a full review.

To be continued…

AVRIL_0003

REVIEW: Aldo Nova – Blood on the Bricks (1991)

ALDO NOVA – Blood on the Bricks (1991 Polygram)

After Aldo’s career had been declared clinically dead and Aldo himself a “one hit wonder” (“Fantasy”), it took the mighty Jon Bon Jovi to resurrect him. JBJ, who co-produces and co-writes pretty much every song here, has a heavy stamp on this album. Considering that Aldo played on several Jon Bon Jovi releases, this album will appeal mostly to fans of the Well-Coifed One.

The problem with Blood On The Bricks is not lack of decent material, or lack of chops. Indeed, Aldo proves on several tracks that he is a burnin’ axeman, and he even takes a brief keyboard solo on “Bright Lights”. The problem here is that this album is choked to death in overproduction, and I have to blame JBJ for that. Every song collapses under its own weight of gang “whoa whoa” backing vocals, shrill instruments, and thudding shapeless drums with all the characteristic telltale signs of samples.

A song like “Medicine Man”, for example, is a decent if generic song on its own. However it stumbles under the weight of layers of backing vocals and overdubs. The production has spoiled this batch of pleasant if ordinary rock toons. This type of production value was way too common in 1991. Play Prisoners in Paradise by Europe, or Hey Stoopid by Alice Cooper for an idea of this sonic quality. Aldo’s album is recorded and mixed even worse than the afforementioned. And the lyrics are pretty juvenile. “His boom-box blastin’ some Metallica track”? Did Aldo really sing that?

Song highlights for me incluced the burning title track, “Bright Lights”, and nostalgic moments like “Touch Of Madness”, “Young Love” or “Medicine Man”. However aside from the guitar playing everything here is terribly generic; there’s nothing here that you haven’t heard before.  For example, “Veronica’s Song” boils down to a rewrite of Bon Jovi’s “Silent Night”, and that makes me sad.

Two more Bon Jovi connections to mention:  the great Kenny Aranoff, whom Jon likes to use on his solo projects such as Blaze of Glory, plays drums.   Phil X is pictured in the CD booklet as he was in Aldo’s touring band, but he does not play on Blood on the Bricks.  Phil X, known to his friends as Phil Xenedis, is currently on the road with Bon Jovi, filling in for Richie Sambora.

I do like the original cover, it was cool if a bit bland. This edition has an annoying “FEATURING JON BON JOVI” scrawled all over it, as large as the album title.  That also makes me sad.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Triumph – Greatest Hits Remixed (2010)

My Triumph reviews to date:

GR HITS REMIXED_0001TRIUMPH – Greatest Hits Remixed (CD+DVD 2 disc set 2010 Universal)

I was very impressed with the “new” Greatest Hits Remixed by Triumph. Normally I don’t go much for remixes, as 9 times out of 10 the original versions are superior. Greatest Hits Remixed however was done by none other than Rich Chycki (ex-Winter Rose) whose credits include remixing work with Rush, particularly on Retrospective III. He did the first remixes of the Vapor Trails material, leading to the band remixing the whole album today.  Chycki’s work elevated those songs to a new level, likewise with Triumph.

The drums are louder and harder (read: modern sounding). The guitars more aggressive. The rolling, grooving basslines are now in your face. (I may have underrated Mike Levine in the past.)  Keyboards have been toned down. Vocals have been stripped dry and place high in the mix. In the case of “Just One Night”, the entire song sounds re-recorded, particularly the lead vocal.  Gil sounds older on this version. Even the hokey cheese of “Somebody’s Out There” has been replaced with a new edge, drowning out the formerly keyboard-heavy leanings. My only complaint is that some vocals are a little heavy on echo.

This CD-DVD 2 disc set comes with a wealth of interesting extras.  The DVD here is a great package on its own, and would have been worth buying in the $10 range alone. Every major Triumph video is here, now backed by the remixed tracks. In addition, there’s some bonus features, such as the “Child of the City” music video by the “v2.0” version of Triumph with Phil X.  There’s some early fan-cam footage (“Blinding Light Show”) and perhaps best of all, Triumph inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.  They are inducted by Tom  Cochrane, introducing Gil Moore as one of his closest friends.  Who knew?  Additionally, the set is housed in a nice double digipack, with lots of photos (a couple recent ones too) and lots of text to read. On the whole, a well made and timely package.

If you’re a new fan who hasn’t got their first Triumph CD yet, this package is a pretty good buy.  You might really get into the more modern sound. If you’re an old fan, I think it’s fun to enjoy the memories and the harder rocking sounds.

5/5 stars