Having grown up listening to Metallica, Zeppelin, Aerosmith and a myriad of other bands fondly christened as “dad rock,” I get excited whenever a new classic rock album comes out. They’re few and far between in today’s music scene, which tends to emphasis lyricism and prominent guitar riffs over other instrumentation (needs more cowbell!).
While the difference isn’t bad, it has marked the death of classic rock of the 70s and 80s. There are artists, like Bon Jovi and the Rolling Stones, who also have an album out later this year, who are trying to breathe a few more breaths into the genre before it goes. Most of the time, though, it feels less like resuscitation and more like beating a dead horse. Bon Jovi’s new album, “This House is Not For Sale,” feels a lot like that.
Following the exit of departure of guitarist and co-songwriter Richie Sambora in 2013, Jon Bon Jovi had to come into his own and, though he’s certainly done well, Bon Jovi’s new sound doesn’t carry as much of a kick as older albums.
Bon Jovi does, however, manage to do something cool by blending aspects of their older glam rock style with modern rock elements. Notably, “This House is Not for Sale” and the beginning of “Knockout,” both mix a modern pop punk chorus on the “Oos” and “Ohs,” with a traditionally classic rock chord progression and “back against the wall”/fight or flight theme that was common in a lot of earlier rock songs.
“Labor of Love” and “Scars on This Guitar,” on the other hand, take the album down a slower track. Although the change of pace is nice, the slower tracks really begin to reveal Jon Bon Jovi’s age, more so on “Labor of Love.”
A sweet, slow love ballad, the song touches on a more intimate side of the album than most of the other tracks, which focus predominantly on heavy guitar over a steady bass line. Here, though, the bass line and drumming carry the song. The soft instrumentation allows Jon Bon Jovi’s vocals to take the spotlight, but at a heavy cost. All the mixing in the world can’t hide the way his voice shakes on the high notes, which could explain the subdued nature of the album.
The vocal strain is even more clear in Bon Jovi’s live performances. I don’t want to rag on him for aging, because he does still have a strong stage presence and the album is good, it’s just not as good as I know Bon Jovi can be.
Top Track: “This House is Not For Sale,” and “Rollercoaster”
Verdict: “This House is Not For Sale” proved to be Bon Jovi’s unlucky thirteenth album. While the instrumentation and lyrics provide a nostalgic longing for the 80s, when dad rock and glam rock was at its peak, the album as a whole promises a punch and comes out limp-wristed.