Review Summary: The greatest rock album you've never heard.
Though Sweet enjoyed a momentary popularity in the mid 70s, they never quite got the recognition they deserved. The band was overshadowed by other glam rockers, and viewed as somewhat of a novelty band in the vein of The Archies. Just when they got their big break opening for The Who (Pete Townshend was a very public admirer), lead singer Bryan Connolly was punched in throat, forcing them to back out. Addicted to drugs and alcohol, Connolly left the band in 1979, and Sweet's popularity tapered off until their breakup in 1982. To this day, they are only moderately well known in the UK, and virtually unheard of in the U.S., despite such hits as "Ballroom Blitz" and "Fox On The Run."
Stylistically, Desolation Boulevard marks a turning point for Sweet, as they move away from bubblegum pop and into the realm of hard rock. The band begins to distance themselves from songwriting duo Mark Chapman and Nikki Chinn, and handles more of the composition on their own. Though the, perhaps, more authentic European pressing of Desolation Boulevard contains more songs written by the band, the U.S. version has a counterintuitively superior tracklisting, with a harder edge, and less radio pandering.
The music on Desolation Boulevard is best described as a mixture of The Who, Queen, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple (Ian Gillan was in fact an original member of Sweet). Certain songs take on a progressive flair (Sweet F.A.), whereas others recall the bands bubblegum pop sound (The Six Teens, Fox On The Run). Most songs fall under the blanket umbrella of hard rock, with the somewhat infamous ode to bisexuality, "AC/DC," being the heaviest cut. The twin guitar harmonies on "Set Me Free" and "Into The Night" even foreshadow the NWOBHM to an extent.
Sweet are arguably not the most original band, often wearing their influences on their sleeves. The harmonies in "Fox On The Run" are pulled straight out of the Queen songbook, the end solo on "Solid Gold Brass" is a direct ripoff of "Heartbreaker," and the acoustic interlude on "No You Don't" is more Who than The Who. But ultimately, everything is combined in a tasteful manner, with each song a unique, melodic, and memorable statement. Combine that with excellent musicianship and top-notch production, and you have a truly 5 star album.
Fox On The Run
Set Me Free
Into The Night