Saturday, April 14, 2007

Good Charlotte- Good Morning Revival

Revival is a word with many different meanings and connotations. It can be used to describe a religious conversion, a renewed interest or a period of high emotion. Morning can be seen as a metaphor for a revival; the arrival of a new day brings a new start. On their fourth album, Good Charlotte attempts to revive their music, but fails in every aspect.

Good Morning Revival is a desperate attempt to be taken seriously. Everything that was remotely likable about this band is gone. The pop hooks and tongue in cheek lyrics of singles like “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” and “Girls and Boys” have been replaced with tired synthesizer riffs and dour lyrics Good Morning Revival was logical step-forward in the evolution of Good Charlotte, but it actually exposes what a mediocre band they are.

The most interesting thing about Good Charlotte is not their music; it is their ability to rip-off whatever is hip at the time. When the band came into the mainstream in 2002 with The Young and the Hopeless, they fit neatly alongside a million other blink-182 clones. Two years later, it was cool to name drop bands like The Cure, so the band became Goth for The Chronicles of Life and Death. In the two years since Chronicles, the stylish sounds of new wave have become hip, so Good Charlotte has picked up a synthesizer.

Unfortunately, Good Charlotte forgot the cardinal rule to being a stylish new wave band: Shallowness and glamour. To the band’s credit, they have the shallowness down to a science. However, no matter how many Hollywood parties they attend, no matter how many anorexic blond starlets lead singer Joel Madden dates, there is absolutely nothing glamorous about Good Charlotte.

On the album’s opening track, “Misery” Madden whines about the plastic, shallow people that populate Los Angeles. Madden fails to realize that he has become the epitome of what he is whining about. Lyrical missteps like this make the album unintentionally hilarious. “Keep Your Hands Off My Girl” is the worst offender. Madden glorifies the shallow Hollywood lifestyle that he scorns, gloating about his chains, his model girlfriend and his hot car. After that burst of male bravado, Madden morphs into a wounded puppy, claiming that he is a “Victim of Love.” Please.

Good Morning Revival is the worst album of 2007 so far. This may seem like hyperbole, but there is not one redeeming factor in this record. The music is dull and lifeless, and the lyrics are an insult to human intelligence. If Good Charlotte knew how to write a decent hook, or if they had an ounce of wit or humor, this album could have been saved. Unfortunately, Good Charlotte let their ego and self-importance drive this album, and it’s what ultimately killed it. The band meant this album to be a piece of serious art, but art requires craft, and Good Morning Revival has none.

Black Sabbath- The Dio Years

Author's Note: This review was originally published on It can be found here:

Black Sabbath was on the verge of death in the late ‘70s, worn out by years of constant touring and the pressure of releasing an album every year. Frontman Ozzy Osbourne was mired in substance abuse and had become increasingly unreliable. The band’s final albums with Osbourne, Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die lacked the fire and fury of their first five records, and sold poorly. In June of 1979, the band fired Osbourne and hired ex-Rainbow frontman Ronnie James Dio.

The Dio era often gets overlooked, simply because the Osbourne era has been so influential. However, the Osbourne era had one distinct advantage over Dio: It had been distilled and compiled numerous times. This made it easy for new fans to get their feet wet without jumping in too deeply. The Dio Years rectifies this, giving fans their first official compilation of post-Ozzy Sabbath.

The album is in chronological order, taking five tracks from 1980’s Heaven and Hell, four tracks from 1981’s Mob Rules, three tracks from 1992’s reunion album Dehumanizer and one track from 1982’s Live Evil. The album contains three new tracks.

The Dio Years kicks off with “Neon Knights,” the explosive opener from Heaven and Hell. Tony Iommi plays with passion for the first time since 1975’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. The riff for “Neon Knights” is faster than anything from the Osbourne era, taking its cues from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal rather than the blues. The band does not completely pander to this sound, but adapts it to fit their style. The rhythm section of Geezer Butler and Bill Ward is as tight and heavy as ever,

Although the sound of the band has changed slightly, it is Dio’s singing that carries it. Dio’s Herculean voice gives the band new life, especially after two lackluster performances from Osbourne. Dio hits some incredible notes, especially on the ballads. He knows how to get the emotion of the song across without oversinging. The only problem is that Dio’s operatic voice lacks the raw menace that Osbourne had. With Ozzy, you felt like you were in serious danger. Dio is generally unthreatening.

The band made a smart move by choosing most of the songs from Heaven and Hell. Each track shows the versatility of the band. “Neon Knights” and “Lady Evil” are both stomping rockers. “Heaven and Hell” is an old school Sabbath epic, with a slow and dramatic riff. “Lonely is the Word” is a showcase for Dio’s vocal techniques.

The Mob Rules begins with the title track, which is Sabbath at their most ferocious. The song is a showcase for drummer Vinny Appice, who replaced Bill Ward. He plays drums with alarming power and gives the band a Zeppelin-esque sound. The tracks are arranged in a similar manner; rockers up front, ballads towards the back. After Mob Rules, the album begins to fall apart.

The songs from Dehumanizer don’t have the passion of the first two albums, although “After All (the Dead)” contains a great riff, where Iommi borrows from himself. The album plunges further into the hole by including a version of “Children of the Sea” from the 1982 live album Live Evil. “Children of the Sea” is a great song, but it would have made more sense to include the studio version from Heaven and Hell

The band redeems itself with the three new songs. Things have come full circle, and once again Ronnie James Dio has revitalized the band. “The Devil Cried” is a great piece of old school Sabbath. Tony Iommi plays with all the doom and gloom of old. Dio’s voice has lowered slightly, but his older voice adds to the song. “Shadow of the Wind” is essentially a rewrite of “Black Sabbath,” and “Ear in the Wall” is a headbanger in the tradition of “Paranoid.”

The Dio Years is an incredibly effective compilation. It gives the listener an effective introduction to the Dio era of Sabbath without going overboard. If you already own Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules then there is no need to own this, but the new songs are definitely worth checking out.