By New Times
By Derek Askey
By Mark Deming
By Serene Dominic
By Jason Keil
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
Did ya ever wonder how a white rock-star millionaire would know a goddamned thing about Harlem? That assumption is an exploitative, condescending and racist device common to Anglo rock stars who prefer their ivory-towered position in the back seat of a limo when slumming. Oooh, tough ride, Mr. Locklear.
"Hard Times Come Easy" keeps the Jovi milieu of bourgeois mannerisms afloat, only here Mr. Locklear chirps out his grade-school philosophical takes whilst hilariously taking a stab at cred by aping, of all people, Van Morrison: "The realization keeps sinking in/The way you make it is learn to take it on the chin." Even my grandmother could recognize the corn in that couplet. More problematic is the flag-waving, loss-of-innocence epic "Made in America" in which a stolen Mick Ronson riff does little to uphold the tired rock-song formula of an acoustic-heavy verse followed by a minor-chord bridge which gives way to the Big Stupid Rockist Chorus that uses "America" as refrain. Worse, the last verse contains a shameless Lennon reference!
And you don't even wanna hear about the song "Fall From Graceland."
Reductive nostalgia, kids, as if anyone really cares about the bass player from Stray Cats when everybody knows that it was Brian Setzer with all the melody, charisma and voice. Stray Cats was Brian's persona, and this goes lengths to strengthen that certainty. The idea that the Stray Cat gravy train is chugging right along is criminal indeed. Who cares? I mean ya don't see the bass player from Spandau Ballet or Big Country or Psychedelic Furs making solo recordings in 1998, and even if ya did, it's doubtful that it would be this giant a mockery of his original intent.
With this being self-produced, and with Lee as the bassist, it's no surprise the bass is mixed so loud that guitar harmonics are hallucinations. The songs are so minus feel that it's an ugly betrayal of all things Bob Wills or Hank Williams, the things to which Sir Rocker takes off his hat. Frog rectums come to mind, friends. Even Blondie's "One Way or Another" doesn't escape the doses of antiseptic juice Rocker doles out at will.
Plus, frighteningly, Rocker looks like Herman Munster these days, which he isn't afraid to flaunt, as demonstrated by the cover photo. And ya don't need to be a noir nut to spot the fishiness a mile off as the album--in its infinite failure at authenticity--contains not one, but two songs with the dreaded rootsy word "Memphis" in them. Go figure.
Contact Bill Blake at his online address: firstname.lastname@example.org