State of Grace
Punk rock in its truest form seems to have lost its passion. Just about the time I was ready to give up hope, Hellcat slid one across my desk that restored my faith in raw and ready rock and roll with The Street Dogs' State of Grace.
The band's Boston pedigree comes through loud and clear (lead singer Mike McColgan was originally the front man for Dropkick Murphys while guitarist Johnny Rioux was a member of The Bruisers), along with touches of Celtic and occasional ska undertones, but that's not the strength of the new disc.
Instead, State of Grace rises and takes flight on an authentic energy and sincerity that's hard to deny. Owing more to bands like The Clash, Big Audio Dynamite and Sticky Little Fingers than balls-out hellions The Sex Pistols, The Street Dogs are focused on the world around them and finding a way to make it better, instead of just tearing down the establishment and dancing in its burning rubble.
That's not to say the band doesn't tap into politics this time around. Cuts like "Rebel Song" and "San Patricios" (the later of which is a call for Irish-Mexican solidarity) definitely call for a change in climate and mind set, but the rough edges are smoothed a bit as the disc is book ended by "Mean Fist" and "Free", providing enough introspection to make State of grace, the Street Dogs' most personal album to date.
Of specific note, however, is mid-disc gem "The General's Boombox," a eulogy for Joe Strummer that draws attention to The Clash's indelible influence on the band. Unfortunately, with Strummer's passing we'll never get to see The Street Dogs share the stage with their musical Godfather.
Personally, I'd love to see them hit the club circuit opening for Mick Jones' latest project, Carbon/Silicon, but reality says that for the time being we'll have to settle for appearances on the Warped Tour in the summer and hope a fall/winter tour brings the band our direction, either headlining a barn-burner at Mercury Lounge or opening for Flogging Molly or Rancid at the Cain's.
In the meantime, I'll be glad that there are few bands like The Street Dogs out there that remember what punk rock is really about. --G.K. Hizer
WalMart/Sam's Club Exclusive
Like many artists that have weathered multiple decades in the music industry, Bryan Adams is an artist who's name may have declined in stature (at least in the U.S.), but that didn't deter him from hammering away and extending his career. He's also one of the latest to learn from the rise and fall of the major labels and adapt to the new marketplace.
I'll admit a dirty little secret: back in high school I was a Bryan Adams fan. (Yes, I know, big surprise.) I was more than a little weary when I saw his latest CD, however.
Undoubtedly, the same things that made me cringe will likely be the same things that will convince former fans to pick up the disc on a whim for only $10.
First off is the packaging: eerily reminiscent of 1991's Waking Up the Neighbors, which I consider both a victory lap and death knell for Adams' pop career. Building on the sequential successes of Cuts Like a Knife, Reckless and Into the Fire, Adams enlisted "Mutt" Lange to co-produce his big rock record. What resulted was an album that white-washed any soul out of the rock songs and featured mega-hit "(Everything I Do) I Do it For You," the song that quickly delegated Adams to soundtrack an A/C radio.
Seventeen years later, Adams strikes a similar pose on 11, albeit this time in a tailored suit and polished lace-ups instead of jeans, leather jacket and biker boots: Perfect for hooking the soccer mom going through the check-out.
My second reason for cringing was a quick perusal of the track list. A catalog that included "Broken Wings," "Something to Believe In," "Mysterious Ways" and "She's Got a Way" made me fearful that Adams had gone through a dry spell and fallen back on the old "covers album" concept that was already passé five years ago.
Fortunately, after a quick listen I found that although Adams may be struggling to find original titles, at least the songs were his. And to his credit, he's still a pretty strong songwriter. Granted, there's nothing new to shake the world and create a whole new fan base, but combined with Adams' still strong but smoky voice, there's plenty to win back old listeners.
Who knows? Adams may even have another radio hit on his hands if "I Thought I'd Seen Everything" continues to build on satellite and A/C radio. It's actually quite catchy, if a little syrupy -- but what else would you expect? --G.K.H.
Arguably one of the biggest "rock" bands in Christian music, Third Day has inherited the unenviable honor of trying to balance its rock band tendencies with expectations of CCM radio while trying to remain relevant. Combined with the expectations that come from the success of the band's Offerings discs, which cast its songs in a praise and worship context, Third Day could easily fond itself in the middle of an identity crisis.
Add in the fact that over the past nine months, guitarist Brad Avery decided to part ways with the band, and the overly melodramatic could consider this the "make or break" album that decides the band's ultimate fate. That's not really the case however.
Fortunately for the fans, Third Day has taken on the burden of expectations and processed the loss of a friend and brother to produce its strongest and most focused album since 2001's Come Together. The rock songs are here (granted not too rocking--we wouldn't want to scare the church parents), as well as the obligatory radio singles ("Call My Name" has already topped CCM play lists), and the band even manages to make a declaration of it's identity as well as its faith.
As much as the album's lyrics are openly faith based, an underlying theme of reestablishing an identity also pervades the album, beginning with opening track "This Is Who I Am." (I'm the son of a good man, child of an angel, brother of a wild one-and I'm looking for direction...). The theme follows throughout, whether searching for purpose in "Revelation," deciding to take action on "Otherside," stating intentions and character, as in "I Will Always Be True."
Yes, I'm sure the album will land at least three singles on the radio and a couple are destined for Sunday morning worship services and another future Offerings release (see: "Born Again" and "Take It All"), but those looking for more than white-washed "Pie in the sky, in the sweet bye and bye" lyrics will find plenty to dig into with Revelation. --G.K.H.
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