|Bon Jovi - 'The Circle' (Island)|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Wednesday, 28 October 2009 22:35|
You could say that the Uber Rock review of this, the eleventh studio album by Bon Jovi, is as useful as Rick Allen's juggling; it will sell by the shopping trolley-full, top many charts and provide the background music for many a housewife to trawl through the brainless Facebook wastelands.
'Have A Nice Day' producer John Shanks returns for 'The Circle' - can Bon Jovi come up with any blander album titles? - and the fact that his resumé is littered with Celine Dion, Hilary Duff, Ashlee Simpson and Kelly Clarkson credits kinda hints at where Bon Jovi consider their niche market to be...err....these days. But guitarist Richie Sambora told Rolling Stone magazine earlier this year that this new album was "a return to rock 'n' roll" for the band. Hmm. You really have to question just how much sauce Richie was lubricating his ears with that day.
Remember the opening to the 'New Jersey' album? A can full of stadium rock, all shook up and cracked open in your face. How things have changed. The trio of songs that form the opening of 'The Circle' - lead single 'We Weren't Born To Follow', 'When We Were Beautiful' and 'Work For The Working Man' - apart from containing the most uses of the letter 'W' since Jonathan Ross hosted the British Comedy Awards, simply limp out of the speakers in a way that you are tempted to call 'soft rock' until you realise that even that grim genre contains a little bit of the latter. This is generic country-pop music that is so middle of the road your nostrils flare at the expected whiff of roadkill. 'Work For The Working Man' hints at the ghost of 'Living On A Prayer' with a familiar bass line from that guy that nobody cares about, but is wholly unmemorable. 'Superman Tonight' has Jon waxing lyrical about his famous tattoo and...um.....is a nice song. Yeah, you read that right - nice.
So, where's the rock 'n' roll, Richie? Fifth track 'Bullet' actually uses an instrument called a guitar - the song has an off-beat 'Keep The Faith' style spine to it and allows Sambora the chance to remind us of his plucking prowess when it gets to solo time. There appears to be life in the old, yet very handsome, dog yet. 'Thorn In My Side' is yet another song title that is all too familiar - add the song to that category too; generic pop rock for which a multi-million dollar music video awaits. Missing a generic, autobiographical power ballad laced with a string section and christened with yet another clichéd crime of the English language from your music collection? Fear not, 'Live Before You Die' will fill that gap like a hand covers a yawn.
You have to give Bon Jovi credit. They were just another poodle permed pup that got put in a sack and tossed into the ravaging waters of the music industry. That they clawed their way from uncertainty to iconic status in several short years is a testament to the talent and drive that the band possessed. Past tense, notice that? That they have grown into a bloated corporation may be excused by their age but, c'mon, I have grown alongside this band and I'm not ready to pack in all that is cool in music to settle for plodding pop by numbers just yet. The band's albums over the last decade appear to be contractual obligations that are released in order for yet another tour of the world to be announced, as they strive for U2-style stadium rock respect. At least Bono peppers their show with a, somewhat contentious, world-wariness - Jon Bon Jovi's lyrics are polluted by a feverish feelgood factor that aim to uplift.....and make the attendee forget about the hundreds of dollars/pounds that they have paid to witness this corny choreographed classic 'rock' extravaganza. And how many of the cheesily-titled songs on 'The Circle' do you think are gonna slot easily into the Bon Jovi live show? How many fan favourites are gonna get dropped for 'Fast Cars', 'Happy Now' or 'Learn To Love'?
I challenge every Bon Jovi fan to name - from memory - every song on the last four Bon Jovi albums. Insipid, easily forgotten nuggets of generic and cookie cutter plodding pop rock fodder. A slow motion end of the world in progress.
I have always held the legacy of Bon Jovi in high regard. The coolness of David Bryan's iconic hair extensions also. But there really is no excuse for the boredom that accompanies the playback of 'The Circle'. This is an album for lumps of meat who go to one concert every few years, buy their music in supermarkets and drive 4x4's with shit like this pumping out of the stereo. Hunt them down, kill them, save the planet.