You Can Play These Songs with Chords

The newest from Bon Jovi, Interpol, Tomahawk and Neurosis


Bon Jovi

Lost Highway (Island)

Often maligned as denizens of the territories colonized by spandex-clad, poodle-haired '80s poseurs, Bon Jovi actually chucked the pop-metal approach by 1988's New Jersey . And since the release of that watershed opus, the group has trafficked in melodic hard rock with payoffs that come in the form of anthemic choruses ideally suited for stadium singalongs.  

While the Bon Jovi oeuvre might not be high art, one must concede that their songs are memorable, the production is flawless, and the lyrics do occasionally touch on universal truths. What Bon Jovi is selling is entertainment, rendered with a degree of emotional gristâ"Springsteen lite, if you will. Its populist rock has recently become somewhat politicized, delivering centrist liberalism that seems refreshing, especially when sandwiched between the knee-jerk jingoism of most white, male, middle-aged classic rock artists.  

And that's why the group's new album, Lost Highway , is such a vexation. The band's calculated decision to create MOR pop/country will surely move units. ( Lost Highway is currently No. 1 on the charts. This seems a given when you consider that the mainstream country audience is composed of '40s-ish, suburban Caucasians raised on rock in, you guessed it, the '80s.) The anthemic choruses are intact, but the shredding leads are replaced with the whine of an anesthetized fiddle. And the glimpses of lyrical heft that made the band acceptable as a guilty pleasure have been shitcanned in favor of the trite love balladry of tepid adult pop.

Lost Highway will probably prove to be a critical juncture in the career of Bon Jovi. The band could follow Aerosmith and Metallica into the corporate void and become a franchise, or they could realize that the conscious move toward Nashville pop is a mistake, even if it is profitable. Let's hope these guys opt for the latter and hurry back to the New jersey shores where they belong. St. Bruce is waiting to welcome them home. â" John Sewell


Our Love to Admire (Capitol)

There's an old Human Giant comedy sketch in which a particularly pretentious record store clerk talks about the time, â“last May,â” when he went trick-or-treating with Carlos D from Interpol.

â“But Halloween is in October,â” a confused customer responds.

â“Not when you're Carlos D,â” answers the smirking clerk. â“That guy doesn't play by the rules.â”

For an indie rock fan, this scene is both funny and strangely plausible, considering Interpol's five-year reign as Matador's most painfully hip Joy Division disciple. That sterling reputation is on the line now, however, with the band's unholy, major label debut, Our Love to Admire .

As it turns out, any fears of Interpol turning into a disposable, mainstream version of itself (in other words, She Wants Revenge) are unwarranted. However, Our Love to Admire only occasionally matches the infectiousness and scope of the band's 2001 debut, Turn On the Bright Lights , and mainly dwells on the same so-so plateau as 2004's Antics .

Opening track â“Pioneer to the Fallsâ” is certainly a highlight, chockfull of familiar Interpol ingredients like impending doom, swirling minor chords, and morbid lyricism: Show me the dirt pile / and I will pray / that the soul can take / three stowaways . If you can't fit all six minutes of that track on a mixtape, go with â“Pace Is the Trick,â” which is shorter and essentially the same song.

For those looking for new twists, â“No 1 In Threesomeâ” offers a sprightlier bass line than Carlos D typically offers, but rest assured, the guy still trick-or-treats whenever the hell he wants.   â" Andrew Clayman


Anonymous (Ipecac)

A low guitar drone begins and builds intensity. Vocals enter, deep, hollow, wordless. Pitches mingle to a choral effect and climax with a thunder roll into a plateau of rainfall. â“War Songâ” sets the tone sonically and geographically for Anonymous, creating an aural and visual tableau of American plains and mountainous deserts.

Anonymous is Tomahawk's third release and marks a major departure in sound. While the band's prior attempts offer solid, heavy rock tunes reminiscent of the performers' origins, Anonymous brings the band's sound into a distinct identity of its own.

With album having been â“inspired by Native American Material from the Late 19th Century,â” the source material liberates Anonymous . The songs build internal tension through mood and intensifying layers augmented by the images spawned from titles like â“Ghost Dance,â” â“Red Fox,â” and â“Sun Danceâ” in a way that makes the listener part of the album. The instrumentation is fresh and surprising throughout, employing memorable guitar melodies and percussion with highlights in the rhythmically unsettling â“Totemâ” and the richly textured â“Crow Dance.â”  

Vocally, Mike Patton displays pitch and tonal quality absent in earlier Tomahawk releases. Although several tracks on the album do not contain identifiable words, and lyrics often consist of repeated phrases like â“Oh, the crow our fatherâ” and â“Skin walker, skin walker, skin walker, you are,â” the listener quickly forgives, then embraces this because the effect is the message. The album's true power derives from its cohesive vision that offers the willing listener a unique and resonant journey. â" Andrew Najberg


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