Sometimes it seems that musical fads change and vary as often as the styles in women's clothing stores. Genres rise and fall overnight, as some bands make drastic shifts in their music to stay on top of the current music 'scene'.
One such shift that has been bothering me recently is rather perplexing -- indie bands attempting to turn into Southern rock outfits. Take for example the Montreal outfit 'The Stills
' who produced a rather solid indie album back in 2003. Their latest album -- bizarrely -- shifts to a country, roots rock feel that almost necessitates the additions of "Nash and Young" to the end of their band name. Although the change isn't as drastic as say, Metallica
modelling themselves after the Pussycat Dolls, it still feels like an entirely different band. Advancement in music is nice, but drastic shifts tend to throw fans for a loop.
Another band to pursue this surprising course is B.R.M.C, who were previously known for creating indie music characterized with the 'wall of sound' technique. With 'Howl', B.R.M.C very consciously decides that they are no longer an indie band, but a gospel toting Southern rock group. The problem is that they were never this band to begin with -- all of their fans, perhaps even their record contract revolved around their particular sound that they have altogether abandoned.
The results, to put it mildly, are conspicuously pretentious. Crooning voices, along with vague and constant references to 'my Jesus', 'soul', and 'sin' all come across as blatant attempts to seem authentic -- while missing the point of gospel music entirely. Even the song titles seem to be trying -- desperately -- to convince you that this album is for real, with names like "Devil's Waitin'", "Weight of the World", "Restless Sinner", and perhaps, most obviously, "Gospel Song."
The music too, is generally uninspired, revolving around acoustic guitar ballads, crooning and off key vocals, and throw ins of banjos, and other instruments that you'd expect to be present in this type of music. That being said, Howl has a few good songs scattered amidst the drudgery. 'Shuffle Your Feet' is a good, solid track, and B.R.M.C would have been wise to follow this type of formula if they were so set on making this type of record. The outstanding 'Ain't No Easy Way Out' is worth a buy, with pounding 12-string guitars and an incredibly catchy vocal lick. Lastly, 'Weight of the World' isn't bad either, if a bit uninspired.
But this album is very much hit or miss. While those songs are quality, they seem to represent the limit of B.R.M.C's ability to foray into Southern rock. Howl, in the end, is a poor album, designated to be relegated into a dusty back drawer of failed expirements. This band was never a Southern rock band -- indeed, it is highly doubtful they would have even been signed if they were originally playing this material. By trying to ride the wave of contemporary critical acclaim, B.R.M.C have only managed to look ridiculous.