Change. Not Necessarily A Good Thing.

Papa Roach, Metamorphosis

Papa Roach is by no means new to the world of controversy. From their first suicidal single, “Last Resort” to their latest installment of nu-metal, Metamorphosis, Jacoby Shaddix and friends have built quite a repertoire of heavy, riffing guitars and arena-rock vocals. Their uncanny ability to come out of hiding and dominate the charts is no doubt, what has kept them on mainstream radar for the last ten years, however, after the lukewarm reception of their latest release it seems as the though this foursome’s reign is finally coming to an end.

Metamorphosis, released March 24 on DGC Records, is the sixth studio album from Papa Roach. Although the record seems to strive for a more poppy metal sound, the overall affect is less than pleasant. Jacoby’s once-passionate vocal is now stifled by a shockingly 80’s-metal flare that resembles Nickelback’s Chad Kroger, or Buck Cherry’s Josh Todd. Additionally, the pulsating guitars and intense lyrics that propelled Papa Roach to superstardom are once again absent from this recording. As a fan of their old material, Metamorphosis leaves me asking, “Who is this band and what have they done with my Papa Roach?”

While there’s no disputing the production value of this record, the lyrical strength and intensity the band used to rely on is nowhere to be found on Metamorphosis. Several tracks have solid foundations but fail miserably when it comes to the lyrics, which are incredibly clichéd and void of passion. Perhaps the most disturbing example can be found on track two, “Hollywood Whore.” The single is completely predictable and unfortunately, sub-par. SputnikMusic.com commented on the song saying:

“‘Hollywood Whore’ takes aim at the flirtatious females that have invaded tinsel-town of late. There is a half-decent riff courtesy of guitarist Jerry Horton and some melody contained within the cut, but it is all brought down by clichéd lines such as “the talk of the town is that she’s going down,” and… “Don’t let the door hit you where the good lord split you honey.”

In fact, the track ends with Shaddix screaming “Don’t let the door hit you…” channeling the likes of Nikki Six, which he also seems to have done on their recent album artwork.

Not everyone has a dislike for the would-be single “Hollywood Whore,” however. Amazon.com called the song “a ferocious Rock track with a contagious and undeniable chorus.” While all opinions are debatable there’s potential in this song, if only the band had taken the time to realize it.

Four minutes later, the sex-anthem “I Almost Told You That I Loved You” is just as soulless. The sadly superficial track led SputnikMusic to write,

“I Almost Told You That I Loved You’ begins with “You know I love it when you’re down on your knees”, a double-take is in order to ensure…Jacoby Shaddix has not been possessed by either Chad Kroeger (Nickelback) or Austin Winkler (Hinder).”

To ad insult to injury, AbsolutePunk.net wrote, “I Almost Told You That I Loved You” is unmistakably a Buckcherry rip off on all accounts.” Too bad no one was there to give such advice before the record was released. Thankfully, there’s hope about half-way through the album. A little old-school Papa Roach can be found on tracks like “Lifeline” (a convenient first single), and “March Out Of The Darkness,” which Ultimate-Guitar.com said, “mixes guitar crunch with lyrical introspection and impassioned vocals.” Both tracks showcase Shaddix’s vocal without making him sound like a copy-cat and listeners can extract some semblance of passion in the lyric thanks to a signature, “help me, I’m lost” message found on both tracks.

While some may enjoy the detour Papa Roach has taken with their latest LP, the majority speaks loud and clear. The unfortunate downall of Metamorphosis can be linked directly to the band’s lack of direction. RollingStone.com hit the nail on the head saying, “the problem is that Papa Roach don’t rise far enough above the radio-rocking competition—it’s hard to remember the band’s identity at this point.” The constant identity flip-flop could be due to the band’s inability to let go of mainstream, but if these Cali rockers were to give up the ability to top the charts, it’s unpleasant to think how far they could fall.

Six records into their career, Papa Roach has evolved from garage/rap-rock with a punky twist to full-fledged metal band that sounds like a mix of Metallica and Nickelback. The strange combination may very well be the stepping-stone on the road to change, but it is certainly far from a textbook Metamorphosis. As SputnikMusic.com put it,

“The LP is a regression on their previous releases. The band seem to be aiming at as broad an audience as possible here, but the likelihood is that they will reach even less targets since basically every track lacks a certain something to distinguish itself from the large pack of similar artists flooding the market. Chances are that most listeners will find a couple of songs to like, but as a whole, Metamorphosis fails to impress”.

If you were a fan of old-school Papa Roach, and do not favor recent releases like Getting Away With Murder you may want to steer clear of Metamorphosis. But if you can get over the smothering metal influences go ahead and give it a shot.

Peace

New Tunes From An Old Favorite

Bouncing Souls
If you haven’t heard already, punk princes The Bouncing Souls have been releasing a new song each month as part of their 20th anniversary album. We’re three tracks deep, and already The Souls, true to form, are making quite a buzz on the scene.

Gasoline—

The first track, released January 1, 2009 is entitled “Gasoline” and packs a five-fingered, old-school Souls punch. BlogCritics.org called the release, “punk rock satisfaction from start to finish,” and said, “The Bouncing Souls prove with this single that even if 20 years have passed they still are capable of pushing out great tunes.” The track is classically up-beat, pure punk rock with singer Greg Attonito’s signature pipes driving the melody, as he sings of being sheltered from reality and searching for a distraction from the monotony of every-day life. Aversion.com called the track, “ everything you’d expect from the Souls…a dose of old-school grit gleaned from stacks of British singles…from The Clash to early oi!, with doses of big-sugar pop-punk melody.” It seems the Bouncing Souls can do no wrong, even after 20 years!

We All Sing Along—

February brought us, “We All Sing Along,” a gritty heartfelt anthem of a song with a positive twist. Track two is the perfect combination of old-school Souls attitude with a smoother more polished feel that mimics more recent releases like 2006’s, “The Pizza Song.” BrokenHeadPhones.com called the track a, “punk anthem” celebrating its positivity and inspirational tendencies. If the Souls can keep cranking out tunes like this one after more than twenty years, there’s hope for the future of punk music after all.

Airport Security—
As far as punk love songs go The Bouncing Souls have hit the jackpot with the third of this year’s twelve releases, “Airport Security.” In an interview found on ReadJunk.com the band said about the song,

“A good love song is hard to come by.. Most times they are corny and annoying…but the good ones are sooooo Good!! Airport Security is that attempt for me. Its a love song from me to my wife with a slice of a political statement/comic relief…but hopefully when the songs starts you forget about me, my wife, politics, comedy and yourself. If you do…it’s a good love song.”

It’s safe to say the Souls have achieved that exact affect sweeping the listener off his feet with the lyric, “I could write a thousand songs and never get it right/In my mind its getting harder to leave you/You know I have to believe you’re alright/What else can I do while I’m flying so high.” There’s a sort of longing in Attonito’s voice that becomes almost playful when combined with the pulsating guitars of the verse. This is the perfect follow-up to “We All Sing Along.”

It seems as though The Bouncing Souls have a nice little album coming together here. All three of the tracks released so far have been packed full of Bouncing Souls’ signature attitude with a new school twist that’s polished and mature. After pumping out more than 20 years of hardcore punk rock, The Bouncing Souls have managed to find a happy medium between their old school, garage-punk roots, and the shiny pop punk of today’s mainstream. If the next nine tracks are anything like these three, we’re all in for a treat, courtesy of The Bouncing Souls.

Southern Boys Put A Country Spin On Rock ‘N Roll

Cage The Elephant, Relentless Records
One sunny afternoon just north of Nashville, TN, the grit of southern rock fell in love with the energy of funk and the very essence of rock n’ roll. Their love grew and multiplied and a short time later, out of Bowling Green, Kentucky, was born Cage The Elephant.

Brothers Matt and Brad Schultz joined up with a high school friend Jared Champion, and family friend Danielle Tichenor. A few months later Lincoln Parish, an eager young musician, e-mailed the group several times asking to join. Subsequent jam sessions proved successful and Parish joined the group at the ripe old age of fifteen. Cage The Elephant began to conquer the local tour circuit, and after word spread of their high-energy, high-chaos live shows, they signed with Relentless Records. Since then, they’ve been working hard to release their debut album “Cage The Elephant” which dropped in the US June 23, 2008

Since 2007 Cage The Elephant has been touring and living in the UK where their first single, “In One Ear” debuted at number 26 on the Top 40 charts, and their intense live shows have earned them opening spots on tour with Kings of Leon and Queens of The Stone Age.

Now, that their self-titled LP has finally been released in the States, Cage is poised to take control of the American rock scene. The band’s organic melodies channel the likes of The Chili Peppers and outspoken lyrics mock their critics with a raw poignancy reminiscent of Dylan himself. On the opening track “In One Ear” the band claims, “They say that we ain’t got the style/we ain’t got the class/we ain’t got the tunes that’s gonna’ put us on the map” but subsequent tracks like “James Brown” and “Lotus” dispel any such rumors.

BBC reviewed the new record saying, “’In One Ear’ is a definite two fingers up at the music industry (”I’m an antisocial anarchist who sounds like so and so… Rock ‘n roll is dead I should have stayed at school”).” The story behind the lyric is, no doubt, one of the many things that draw fans to Cage’s live shows and helps to make the track so phenomenal.

Cage The Elephant continues the record with tracks like the fan-favorite “Tiny Little Robots” which channels “the kind of guitar playing that The Hives would appreciate,” (Contactmusic.com)and finishes everything off with the distinct, “Soil To The Sun,” a track that proves Cage is in it to win it with their haphazard enthusiastic rock.

While DrownedInSound.com called Cage The Elephant, “Kings of Leon 2.0.” nothing could be farther from the truth. While it’s true Cage shares geographical origins with Kings, the overall intensity and passion found in Cage songs such as “Back Stabbin’ Betty” and “Back Against The Wall” put the two bands in completely different categories; Cage is pure rock, while Kings have a distinct indie-edge.

Opinions aside, Cage The Elephant have made it clear that they are here to rock, and with their debut record, courtesy of Relentless, they’re not about to let anyone forget the fact. Online music source, Mirror.Co.UK described Cage’s magic perfectly saying, “[Cage] moves in demented unison, hits you with the force of a hurricane and doesn’t forget to drop killer riffs and top tunes.” Their energy smacks the listener in the face from the very first beat and keeps him coming back for more track after track.
Check out Cage The Elephant on iTunes, or sample some tunes for free on the band’s MySpace here.

Let the Right Ones In: Ten bands that should be in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame

The 23rd annual induction ceremony for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is coming up, and with it comes the annual bitchfest by music fans and critics as to which bands deserve to get in and which do not. The general public has no say in the nomination or induction process; instead, an anonymous committee chooses the nominations, which are then voted on by an equally anonymous group of 500 “rock experts.” Bands are eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record. Usually there’s little controversy when it comes to the artists chosen for induction, with the real debates circling around those artists who have yet to be recognized by the Hall of Fame.

The Hall has its prejudices when it comes to selecting those worthy enough for induction. Heavy metal, punk and prog rock have a hard time getting in, while anyone with an obvious blues or country influence seems to be a shoe-in. It also helps to be American or British; no artists from mainland Europe, Africa, South America or Asia have been inducted yet.

With that in mind, Bullz-Eye has selected 10 artists, listed in chronological order of their eligibility, that we feel have been given the shaft by the Hall. These are by no means the 10 “best” artists who have failed to be inducted; just 10 “of the best” who have not yet gotten their due.

The Stooges
Eligible since: 1994

The Stooges self-titled debut came out in 1969 and it’s hard to imagine just how abrasive and loud the Stooges must have sounded to audiences at the time. Try putting them in context: the biggest albums of that year were Abbey Road, Blood, Sweat & Tears’ self-titled record that had the hit “Spinning Wheel” and the original cast recording of “Hair.” One of the biggest singles was “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies. Contrast that with “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” and a sense of just how far ahead of the times they were begins to develop.

Rush
Eligible since: 1999

We are loath to use album sales as a measure of a band’s true worth, but it’s worth noting that Rush’s first 16 studio albums, spanning 22 years, have sold a minimum of 500,000 copies each. The only band with a longer gold-or-better sales streak is the Stones. Aerosmith is just behind Rush, with 14 straight gold-or-better albums, and U2 will probably get there if the band doesn’t kill Bono first. Fittingly, Aerosmith, U2 and the Stones are all in the Hall; Rush, however, are not, and their exclusion can be boiled down to three words: critics hate prog.

Motorhead
Eligible since: 2002

They may have paved the way for Anthrax and their thrash metal ilk, but Motorhead’s influence can be heard in punk music of the ’80s and ’90s, alternative rock groups such as Queens of the Stone Age and even in electronic and new wave music (industrial music is basically thrash metal with keyboards). The Hall hates metal, for some reason – it even took them 11 years to get off their asses and induct Black Sabbath. And if Ozzy and company can barely squeak into the Hall of Fame, an underground act like Motorhead doesn’t have a prayer. Pity.

To read the rest of the bands that should be in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, click here

The Answer: Everyday Demons

Offering pure proof that good old-fashioned cock rock doesn’t need to sound as airbrushed as Nickelback (or as depressingly stupid as Hinder), AC/DC openers the Answer toss starving AOR fans a heavy bone with Everyday Demons. There isn’t a lick here you haven’t already heard a thousand times, but that’s sort of the point – each of these 11 tracks takes the most tried and true ingredients of your favorite classic rock records and regurgitates them with as much of that bad ‘n’ ballsy old-school spirit as you could reasonably expect in 2009. Don’t expect any Darkness-style camp, or any of the sour-faced defensive posturing you’ll hear from most other 21st-century rock revivalists, in these songs – the Answer, unlike most of their peers, remember that rockin’ is its own reward, and any given track on Everyday Demons would have sounded just fine being blasted out of a car stereo in the parking lot of your neighborhood liquor store on a Friday afternoon in 1990. It should go without saying that this is fairly awesome – but it should also be obvious that in sticking with screeched, fist-pumping choruses and double-tracked solos from low-slung guitars, the band essentially paints itself into a corner that it can only escape with the aid of songs that do more than evoke memories of every aging hesher’s misspent youth. Everyday Demons is unmistakably cut from “classic rock” cloth, but it isn’t a classic in its own right. Still, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. If you’ve been wondering which of the current crop of young rock bands has the balls to restore the genre’s faded glory, here’s your Answer. (The End 2009)

The Answer MySpace page

Sonos: Sonos

A cappella music is supposed to be the domain of fun-for-a-minute novelty acts like the Nylons or the Blenders, and even the best of the genre often sounds as though it was recorded by the same grinning, finger-snapping, vest-wearing nerds you laughed at during spring assembly in high school. The last time anyone cared about an a cappella single was in 1993, when Huey Lewis and the News scored a fluke hit with a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “It’s Alright” – and when a genre’s last taste of success came from Huey Lewis, you know it’s seen better days. Into this cultural vacuum steps the six-member Los Angeles outfit known as Sonos, and although their press materials contain all the dreaded buzzwords used by makers of terminally unhip music – “push the envelope,” “redefine a genre” – their self-titled debut is actually far better than you might expect, especially given their über-hip taste in cover selections (Bjork’s “Jaga,” Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place,” Imogen Heap’s “Come Here Boy”) and/or the presence of AAA radio pox Sara Bareilles, who contributes vocals to her own “Gravity.” It helps that they aren’t a straight a cappella outfit – many of the tracks incorporate light instrumentation, and they aren’t afraid to chop and twiddle with their vocals – but what really puts Sonos across is the ease with which the group manages to substitute a cool modern feel for the stereotypical Up With People vibe. No vests here, in other words – and if Sonos is still a novelty, it’s one that’ll take a good, long while to wear off. (Big Helium 2009)

Sonos MySpace page

Max Morgan: Interrupting the Silence

His album artwork promises an artist with the velvety smoothness of a young, guitar-toting Kenny G, combined with the addle-brained exuberance of Richard Simmons on Oxycontin – but Max Morgan’s Interrupting the Silence delivers on neither promise, instead providing the listener with an idea of what it might sound like if Leo Sayer had replaced Kevin Cronin in REO Speedwagon. The answer to that question, in case you were wondering, is a lot of generic pop/rock grooves with plentiful falsetto and a few scoops of faux vocal grit, not to mention a load of embarrassing lyrical clichés (“Wait for Me,” in particular, would make Bryan Adams blush). Morgan is a technically sound vocalist, and when he manages to come up with the right material for his voice, he does a fine job of showing off his range, but often – as is the case with the groanworthy “Ya Better Believe” – he doesn’t know which dumb-ass lines to cut, or how not to beat a mildly pleasant groove until it’s dead. (“Believe” is only 3:14 long, but feels like a prog epic.) Morgan’s love for cheese is bottomless; he begins the closing track, “Prayer for No One,” with the line “Hello, Ground Control, I think we’ve got a problem,” channels Michael W. Smith on the weepy power ballad “Nobody’s Coming to My Rescue,” and generally tends to hit Disney Channel rock territory when he’s aiming for arena slayer status. The result is the CD equivalent of a tract home: The pieces are all assembled competently enough, but they’re made from such flimsy stuff, the effort was largely wasted. (Chime 2009)

Max Morgan MySpace page

Bon Iver: Blood Bank

Thankfully, Justin Vernon’s international reputation wasn’t sullied by his deliberate mangling of the French words for “good winter” as his choice for his nom de plume Bon Iver. Indeed, with the release of his much-touted debut For Jessica, Forever Ago, his Gothic backwoods motif somehow struck a chord with Americana enthusiasts both here and abroad, winning unusually rave reviews for a rookie artist from so far a field in the heartland. This four-song set, a prequel of sorts, maintains the wistful gaze and low-lit aura that dominated that debut, but also draws the shades back to reveal a little more light. Opening track “Blood Bank” maintains his steady strum but ups the energy level to a more enthusiastic pace. The hollow-eyed desire of “Beach Baby” falls back to a plaintive pastiche, but “Babys” slowly builds towards a semi-psychedelic crescendo. The EP ends in much the same way, ethereal harmonies weaving in and out, as if Bon Iver had consulted Brian Wilson about how to affect a cosmic shift. Recommended for those who believe ambiance is everything. (Jagjaguwar)

Bon Iver MySpace page

Ian McGlynn: This Is the Sound

Every once in a while, an artist’s music has this way of striking us in our musical pleasure center. Singer/songwriter/pianist Ian McGlynn’s second full-length album, This Is the Sound, is likely going to have that effect on you if you are a fan of dreamy alt-pop. McGlynn’s tenor and some of his melodies will remind you a bit of John Lennon, but his songwriting leans more towards a cross between Ben Folds and Aqualung, and the production on this effort (it’s self-produced with help from songwriting partner John Mosloskie) bring the songs to life in powerful fashion. Much of McGlynn’s material has a cool underground vibe, but some of the tracks on This Is the Sound stand out. In particular, “Night Driving” paints a vivid picture with its dark yet melodic feel, and “Memorial Day Parade” is as close to straight-up pop as McGlynn gets. And he takes things up a notch on the opening track “Play Dead,” which is haunting, beautiful and able to stop you from whatever it is you were doing before you started listening. McGlynn’s music has been placed in both independent and major motion pictures, and whether or not you have heard him before or think you may have, he’s well worth seeking out. (LABEL: Bailey Park)

Ian McGlynn MySpace Page

Andrew Ripp: Fifty Miles to Chicago

This is what happens when a young, potentially gritty blues vocalist hires a former member of Tonic to produce his album: Fifty Miles to Chicago, 11 perfectly inoffensive, slightly soulful rock numbers that suggest what might happen if Rob Thomas listened to a lot of Electric Mud (and did not suck). In fact, Ripp flashes a lot of talent here, both in his vocal performances and his songwriting; it’s just a shame that Dan Lavery’s squeaky-clean production was allowed to suck all the sweat out of the recordings. As a result, although Ripp clearly has the chops to carry a warts-and-all record, Fifty Miles makes him sound like an impostor, an impression deepened by frictionless belters like “Lifeline” that drop him squarely in the driest, whitest square of Taylor Hicks Territory. In all fairness, Ripp co-produced the disc, with Randy Coleman – but it’s hard not to assume that he’s a much more entertaining, dynamic performer in a live setting, and that the decision to geld this record was made purely for commercial reasons. Here’s hoping that subsequent albums find Ripp more willing to color outside the lines, and give his songs the rough treatment they deserve. In the meantime, he’s got a lot more than 50 miles to go before he gets anywhere near Chicago – other than maybe the one that gave us “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.” (Get Ripp’d 2008)

Andrew Ripp MySpace page

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