Saturday, January 14, 2012

Who's in first: Def Leppard vs. Bon Jovi, Round 5

Nevermind the puffy eyes, bloody noses and wobbly walks, it's on to Round 5 of the death match between Def Leppard's "Adrenalize" and Bon Jovi's "New Jersey" - winner earns a spot first in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Def Leppard, "White Lightning"

G.E. Smith: There's no mulligans in rock 'n' roll. Ask this band, this guy or even this f*ck-up.

The Ledge. Badass.
But if there was ever an OK-to-crap-the-bed moment, this would be it - one whole track to unload your sadness, pain, guilt, anger and whatever other feelings you're having as a band over the death of long-time guitarist and friend Steve Clark, who had died only a year earlier, in 1991, at the age of 30. He was found dead on his couch with codeine, Vicodin and morphine in his blood along with a blood-alcohol level of .30, three times the legal limit. Authorities deemed it "accidental." No disrespect intended and in all seriousness, this is complete bullshit. Clark, Ledger, Winehouse, Michael Jackson, etc. - don't sugarcoat it. It is what it is.

Are you like me? Do you think this guy should be locked up?
Anyway, if this song really sucked, it'd be just a-OK. Metallica hadn't paved the way with the hire-a-band-shrink thing, so Lep didn't know it was an option to do this or even use it as a shroud to stage a faux documentary in yet one more feeble attempt to resurrect a career that you drove straight into the gutter with one piece of shit record after another after another. (apparently, the therapy didn't work. they still blow.)

But guess what? "White Lightning" (a reference to Clark, who always wore white) ain't that bad. Guitarist Phil Collen pays tribute to the slick axe man with an opening solo that Clark (who plays on half of the songs on the album, but obviously not this one, duh) might have come up with himself. The song isn't "Wish You Were Here," but it's got a decent enough swagger that builds to some moments of real emotion.

Criticisms: Kind of long at 6:46, and as such cliche-meister "Mutt" Lange has room to get in there and throw out some of his favorite hackneyed rock lyrics. Verse 2 (cliches in bold):

Got both ends burnin' like a moth to a flame
You're goin' off the rails like a runaway train
It's a no-win situation there's no way out
And no one will ever hear you scream and shout

Even if this sucked out loud, I couldn't rate it below a 5. A fitting tribute.

Rating: 5.9

Michael Anthony: When I heard this for the first time in almost 20 years, it really did suck out loud. The intro goes on way too long without the appearance of a single riff or original idea, and the whispered verse vocals - while screaming "Take me seriously!" - are a cornball joke. Sorry, Joe.

And at SEVEN MINUTES, you'd expect a hook in there somewhere, but sadly there's nothing. Come on, these guys wrote "Photograph" and "Foolin'"! Can something please happen in this song?

And the lyrics lyrics. The LYRICS! Here are the only words in "White Lightning", and I'm being completely serious here, that aren't cliched dreck:

When you come down here
You're already

White lightnin'



You get the idea.

On the other hand, there are some solid solos to be found here, much better than what Richie Sambuca was cooking up on New Jersey or the even more putrid Keep The Faith. And, because what you're about to hear below is so bad, I give "White Lightning" and the Def Lep boys a 4.0 by default.

Rating: 4.069

Bon Jovi, "Blood on Blood"

G.E. Smith: There are some Bon Jovi fans who believe songwriters Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora and the band could pull down their pants in the studio, press record and produce an album of them taking a crap and it would sound amazing.

Nobody f*cks with the Boz.
Well, they did just that right here, and guess what? It sounds like warthogs being neutered. It sounds like Jerry Sandusky's future cell in prison. It sounds like the script to "Blackout," aka "Midnight Heat," starring Brian Bosworth.

It's apparent Jon and Richie handled the music - it's a pop-metal-lite take on Bruce - and that Dez Child wrote the bulk of the lyrics. More horseshit "we were young" and "we were crazy" and "we can do it" and "we'll prove 'em wrong" and "I'll be there for you" and then some crap about his dad.

But they're reaaaal proud of themselves. They've written themselves a timeless anthem here. They're legit artists. They're not just beefcake dunces who teenage girls put on their walls and dream about at night.

Watch the video below and you'll hate this vomit cake on the sidewalk even more.

Hey, there's one thing you can always believe in, and that's dreams. So tonight, a dedication. "Blood on Blood."

Michael Anthony: Alright, things are getting interesting!

I have to disagree with G.E. here.

Yes, this is a lite-rock, brain-dead version of "Bobby Jean", chugging along briskly (and dangerously wimpily) with its tales of dudes duding out just for dudes' sake. But hey - it's kinda decent for what it is!

There's no rhythm to speak of, nothing memorable sonically, and the lyrics are terrible - but really, it's not half-bad!

The other, more, well, "special" Bruce.
I like its limp vibe and pointless lyrics about loyalty and camaraderie, despite the fact that it falls apart after a decent guitar intro, not to mention the Bruce comparison I made earlier is totally unfair (to Bruce, of course), and, honestly, a better sounds-like would be something along the lines of Soul Asylum-meets-Bruce Hornsby. Didn't think you'd ever see that sentence here, or anywhere? Let me explain...

See, "Blood On Blood" takes the low-rent, gray jangle of the B-teamers of punk rock and melds it with half-baked singer-songwriter nonsense akin to the worst "rock" music the 80's had to offer, stirs it all up in a pot of semi-audible guitars and tinny-sounding drums, and sets it all to PUKE.

But I like it. A little.

Rating: 3.69

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