|Bon Jovi The Circle||Universal/Def Jam|
Bon Jovi have been pretty consistent in their releasing of albums since coming back into the scene with Crush. But they have also been consistent in confusing fans by being all over the place as far as direction. It seems they are not content or convinced in their role as an iconic 80s rock band still existing and staying popular modern times.|
We've had the career encompassing live album (fail), the mega-box set (average), the re-workings album (epic fail), the big rock album Have A Nice Day (higher pass) and most recently the country album (mostly fail). Now we have the "big rock album" that isn't a 'big rock' album at all. Their 'rock' sound has evolved into true contemporary setting, which worked for them well when mixed with their traditional sound on Have A Nice Day (mainly due to the quality of songwriting), but fails them here on The Circle.
As far as I can see it, this is a pure Jon Bon Jovi album, with side-kick Richie Sambora relegated to do as he is told alongside the other members of the band (who are they again??)
JBJ has dubbed this a 'big loud rock album'. Dear, oh dear…fail! It is a rock album, but it is nothing akin to the Bon Jovi of yesteryear and doesn't come close to the great (and still contemporary) effort Have A Nice Day was.
I have given this album so much airtime waiting for it to grow on me, but it just doesn't. And it isn't necessarily the new modern pop/rock sound that doesn't work for me – I just think the songwriting here is second rate compared to the band's best.
In my opinion the band - sorry, JBJ – is trying too hard to be something he isn't. Bon Jovi is (was) an iconic hard rock band. Jon – just accept that! You are not Coldplay and you are not U2! Producer John Shanks has to go. It is still ok to turn the guitars up, and it is still ok to have a pounding rhythm section. And it is sure as hell is still ok to sound like you did in the old days. Right now I just see too many other bands doing what Bon Jovi used to do, only better and here in the now (Winger, Kiss, Gotthard, Danger Danger).
Track By Track:
We Weren't Born To Follow is most likely a left over from the last few albums as it didn't cut the grade then, easily surpassed by It's My Life and Have A Nice Day.
When We Were Beautiful is the worst offender for the band wanting to be Coldplay. I really like the possibilities here, but the vocals are whiney and the underlying guitars are tragically underutilized and should have exploded into the track. The song builds mood and suspense and then wastes it all by going nowhere.
Work For The Working Man sees the band ripping themselves off with the bass line for You Give Love A Bad Name before disappearing into a bland chorus better suited for a John Mellencamp album.
Superman Tonight has been heralded as the song of the album and it is a decent mid-tempo sentimental rocker. But personally, I don't feel that sentiment – it's all a little flat.
Finally a hard rocker even if it is only mid-tempo. Bullet has a promising beat to kick things off before sounding like a rip-off of themselves yet again – this time Keep The Faith. The guitars kick in briefly, but the chorus just doesn't sound right at all. It sounds forced and is completely ineffective.
Thorn In My Side is where the band sounds most natural on this record. Although filled with a modern tone, the beat kicks the song along nicely and the chorus is actually worth remembering.
The mid-tempo breezy storyteller track Live Before You Die is a JBJ solo tune if there ever has been one. Typical JBJ themes of life and love and a replication of other songs included on each of the band's recent albums. Lush orchestration lifts the track beyond the standard ballad, but very safe generally.
Brokenpromiseland has a cool name and I expected something cool from it. I was disappointed though when the song became another Coldplay/U2 modern rocker. And why is JBJs vocals really annoying on this record? I used to love this band and his delivery.
Love's The Only Rule has a great beat and an in your face tempo, and is a more quality track, despite being a long way from the band's classic sound. But it also shows that no matter what the style, if you can deliver great songs, the rest will come with it. This album needed more songs like this.
Fast Cars is a sappy Coldplay style pop rocker that does absolutely nothing for me and is a huge drop in quality after the last track.
Happy Now tries to rock, but it largely forgettable and falls into the same tempo/vein as 4 or 5 other songs on the album.
Learn To Love is another forgettable formulatic Bon Jovi ballad with a modern twist.
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