It has been awhile since the BoDeans have released a studio album – eight years. In that time, rock and roll has seen bands come and go, most of them not very good. It may sound curmudgeonly, but most bands lack the essentials: they don’t write very well and they don’t play that well. Let’s be nice and say most rock bands these days are fairly generic and play with the soul of a frying pan. That can’t be said for the BoDeans, and I’m happy to report their latest effort has them back in fine form.
It’s obvious when you listen to records by these guys that they know what came before. Yes, they know the music of the Everly Brothers and the Beatles. They know Springsteen and Dylan. Rock ballads are well-written and don’t sound like television commercials. The songs have great hooks that stick in your head and your soul. The BoDeans just get it. And in this day and age, that’s no small feat in rock and roll.
Tune-wise, there’s not a bad one here. “If It Makes You” has ringing guitars, heartfelt vocals, and a great lyric. In short, it’s prototypical BoDeans. Sam Llanas has one of rock’s truly unique voices, and Kurt Neumann is a perfect complement to Sam’s voice. They can get a lyric across about as well as anyone this side of the Pacific. The two also add nice guitar work on this effort. Check out the blustery lead and loud rhythm guitars on “Marianne.” On “(We Can) Love,” the guitar figure actually becomes the melody of the song repeated over chunky rhythm guitars. Chimey 12-string guitar highlights “617,” a fine tune with a very old-style lyric.
This is, and I’m certain will remain, one of my favorite rock albums of the year. It seems such a simple thing – write good songs and perform them with heart and conviction. Easier said than done, I guess, since so few bands (and so many listeners) appear to get it.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Oct. ’04 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.