Review Summary: Warren speaks the truth: "It all comes tumbling down".
There's something about a band that crumbled due to their lead singer's demise that makes me cringe when they decide to give it a last hoorah. It's not that that the lead singer is the entire heart and soul of the group (this wasn't the case in Alice In Chains), but it's always clearly a large part of their sound. Thankfully Alice In Chains decided not force the vocals to sound like the late and enigmatic Layne Staley. Blind Melon, a band that clearly was drawn by their free-loving, more often than not drug induced lead singer Shannon Hoon opted for the format I utterly despise. It seemed all too familiar when they looked to keep their sound intact by making their now-former lead singer Travis Warren hide in the shadow of Hoon; to put it bluntly its noticeable once he detaches from Hoon's vocal persona or should I say try to keep pace with it.
The psychedelic and mixture of folk and blues within both their self-titled debut and more experimental Soup
had a fantastic mellow feeling that was drawn out by the band collectively. They were an unlikely combination and always seemed as if they were just jamming instead of recording, something that is still prevalent within their reunification album - For My Friends
, the instruments still breath life within every crevice of the music that opens due to the hole that isn't strikingly noticeable until a few tracks later.
Once the album moves forward it becomes painfully apparent the band doesn't seem to know where to head in terms of vocal distinction. Warren bobbles between rendition howling of Hoon, as seen in the beginning of "Down On The Pharmacy", but it only becomes a glimpse and soon Warren takes his approach. In no means is Warren a bad or mediocre singer; it's just he's far too similar to the man that is and was the heart and soul of this band. Blind Melon's debut is more predominately known for their fantastic single "No Rain", but its full of diamonds in the rough like "Tomes of Home", "I Wonder", "Change", and "Holyman". The same can be said for their last album as the first formation with Shannon. Soup
, the experimental barrage of psychedelic, folk, and even jazz is perplexing and inspiring to say the least. For My Friends
seems to have a void that lacks any kind of distinction that those albums had. Instrumentally they sound as they first did on their debut and their second wave of influence is non-existent, which is unfortunate because it was beautifully flawed in many ways.
It's difficult to sit and detail the problems with For My Friends
for the fact it isn't a true Blind Melon record in the sense it was meant to be and what most of us expect from them. Warren's vocals start to fall apart when he begins to lower his energetic tones, but unlike what he was meant to do he can't match Hoon's superior almost lethargic singing abilities - the melancholic, passively beautiful, almost lazy tone he inhibited in so much of Soup
. You can see the problem as it rises to the surface every time Warren tries to incorporate Blind Melon's past patterns on this release - energetic over rambunctious songs under weary, almost lazy emotion that pins it for most of the other outings. For the most part For My Friends
shows that the band still has what it takes to continue their sound, but until they find a competent singer that doesn't stay under Hoon's shadow for more than most of the album then Blind Melon won't be any more interesting then the next release any other reunited group.