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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bon Jovi: These Days


1) Hey God; 2) Something For The Pain; 3) This Ain't A Love Song; 4) These Days; 5) Lie To Me; 6) Damned; 7) My Guitar Lies Bleeding In My Arms; 8) (It's Hard) Letting You Go; 9) Hearts Breaking Even; 10) Something To Believe In; 11) If That's What It Takes; 12) Diamond Ring; 13) All I Want Is Everything; 14) Bitter Wine.

By the mid-1990s, they took it way too far. At least Keep The Faith still retained some features typical of a rock'n'roll album — These Days took its formula of ecstatic power ballads and foam-at-the-mouth social anthems to such a hardcore conclusion that even Richie Sambora's electric guitar sounds like a superfluous addition, used mainly to control the high volume levels rather than melodic potential and rock'n'roll energy. The goddamn thing is long, too — fourteen tracks that go on forever, one demonstrative stab of one's own heart after another until you just can't help but wonder, how much soul can one heart contain, physically?

Every song on this album is soaked in sentimentality of the most blatant order: not even ol' Bruce himself probably could cram that much in 73 minutes. The band did say that they were under heavy influence from old soul and R&B records at the time, but stylistically, they sound as if they were probably just trading influences between themselves and Aerosmith: if Permanent Vaca­tion sounded totally modelled on Slippery When Wet, then These Days takes its lessons from Get A Grip — ʽThis Ain't A Love Songʼ and ʽHearts Breaking Evenʼ in particular sound like carbon copies of ʽCrazyʼ and ʽCryingʼ, even borrowing some of Tyler's vocal moves, let alone the total similarity in arrangement and mood. Consequently, all of this sounds well tested, unimagi­native, and supported only by the sheer physical strength of these guys, as if making music were in the same department as pumping iron.

As always, I make no claim about tracks like ʽHey Godʼ or ʽSomething To Believe Inʼ lacking sincerity. Sincerity is so much in the eye of the beholder that it is useless to speculate on how much Jon Bon Jovi was really worried about all the evil in the world, or on whether it is at all ethical for a millionnaire rock star to sing songs about poverty and social injustice (it is hardly a coincidence though, I guess, that both These Days and Get A Grip begin with such a song: first and foremost, the world must be shown that they really care). It is not the lack of sincerity that bothers me — it is the «overcooking» of these products, whose instrumental melodies never stray away from tattered alt-rock clichés, but whose vocal execution taxes Jon's voice to an extent where he cannot pay these taxes, yet still makes us believe that he can; check out his attempt to «gurgle» and stay in key at the same time on one of the "somethiiiiiing... to believe in!" of the «climactic» chorus — anything goes to show us just how much he cares. Who gives a damn if you're a poor songwriter? Just beat your working class breast like nobody else.

On the other flank of the love front, the band is now trying out an additional formula: stripped-down acoustic balladry with Jon in weeping troubadour mode (ʽLetting You Goʼ, ʽDiamond Ringʼ). Its effect is exactly the same, though: the songs could pass for inoffensive, unimpressive filler if not for the DRAMA in the singer's voice that immediately converts them into unlistenable crap. Maybe somebody like Willie Nelson could uncover the true potential of ʽLetting You Goʼ, but this rendition carries an instantly lethal overdose of sweetness. Just as a song with a title as pretentious as ʽMy Guitar Lies Bleeding In My Armsʼ (a monster hybrid of ʽWhile My Guitar Gently Weepsʼ and ʽLove Lies Bleeding In My Handsʼ, I suppose) carries an instantly lethal overdose of TRAGEDY GLOOM DESPERATION KILL YOURSELF NOW NOW NOW. Also, "I can't write a love song the way I feel today", he says, but then apparently today turns into tomor­row, because the very next song is a love song. Oh well.

Occasional catchiness is the only redeeming factor for this wreck of a record, but this time it is not enough to get it off the hook — These Days pretends to more seriousness than any other preceding Bon Jovi album without any musical development whatsoever. Give me a straight, no-frills, no-pretense song like ʽBad Medicineʼ over ʽSomething For The Painʼ any time of day: as I already said, New Jersey had the optimal balance between ambition and potential that these guys could ever establish for themselves, and since then it's all been downhill, and These Days is the first Bon Jovi album where I cannot fix myself a positive outlook even on one single song. Total­ly thumbs down to a band that should have never outlived its big hair, really.


  1. In many aspects, Bon Jovi were MTV created dinosaurs. Also U2, and ahem, yes, REM. By 1995 everyone with an ounce of taste. integrity, individualism... was sick of all of them.

    1. I'd argue that U2 weren't really "dinosaurs" until their big "comeback" (read: throwback) album in 2000. Not that they were especially good in the '90s, but they were at least actively developing and growing; they had a vision, however misguided.

    2. The sentiment that "Everybody with an ounce of taste, integrity and individualism has been sick of REM for 20 years" is one of the most ridiculous comments I've read on this blog.

    3. Dear Anonymous REM fanboy,

      More precisely, 23 years of not giving shit about REM, and wondering what on earth are they doing in this business.

    4. They aren't doing anything. They broke up years ago.

    5. I second what the second Anonymous wrote. You see: one can dislike or even hate Bon Jovi, find U2 mostly just annoying and boring (except Achtung Baby that is), but like R.E.M. at least partially (the IRS Years mostly) and be annoyed by someone stirring those 3 totally different bands together for the sake of an argument that starts plain wrong.

    6. There's nothing I find more obnoxious than somebody who states their opinion on subjective things like this as if it's empirical fact, doubly so when they don't provide any reason for it and just throw it out there like the most obvious.

      If you don't like REM, fine, I really could not care less at all. I can even understand the U2 attack since they've been one of the more obnoxious and overexposed acts in the history of music and they totally get on people's nerves, no matter the quality (sometimes) of their music. But REM are the band that nobody with taste, integrity and individualism? That's where the line is drawn? Really? That's the band that you can't like without being a corporate shill or a mindless sheep who...what, blindly follows the trends of early-90's radio?

      I really should not have to point out how laughably ridiculous that statement is, so I suppose I'll just continue laughing. You take life too seriously, my friend. I pity you.

    7. Those 3 totally different mega-bands were stirred by MTV.
      And yes, REM, like it or not became a corporate band. Warner Bros., anyone?

      Anything after (and including) Green is a spiral downward in quality.

      " That's the band that you can't like without being a corporate shill or a mindless sheep who...what, blindly follows the trends of early-90's radio?"

      Exactly. I am sick of repeating the FM whine of "Losing My Religion" and "Shiny Happy People".

      Forgot Metallica. Nirvana ended on time.

    8. Dear Anonymous No.3,

      Year 2011 is not (many) years ago. They should call it quits in 1988. Bon Jovi, too.

    9. I have to wonder why you still read George's reviews then. Considering he's expressed enjoyment and even (*Gasp*) admiration of the hated REM, and thus must be a man lacking in taste, integrity, and individualism. I don't know why you would deign to read anything written by somebody who holds such horrific values that are so offensive to you.

      Also, I didn't realize being on a major label made you a corporate shill. I guess The Flaming Lips are just trying to suck up to Warner Bros., too.

    10. That reminds me of one of the great ones: Joe Walsh. You Can't Argue With A Sick Mind. Not that good as an album, but what a great title :)
      And what a sell-out, eh?

    11. Dear Anonymous No. 5 or 6 (whatever),

      1. I read George for entertainment, not expecting to agree with him always. So, why not?

      2. You just showed the sick consequences of admiring REM (or just anybody). That is - lack of individualism. Hiding like Anonymous; expecting that everything you read about them must be according to your POV you carved inside your brain; denying their sell-out after Document.

      3. Interestingly, U2 or Bon Jovi fans are far from rabid.

      I am not following you, what are you trying to say? You're vague, like Stipe's vocal.

      Feel free to remove this diarrhea thread on a fungal infection page.

  2. "Whose vocal execution taxes Jon's voice to an extent where he cannot pay these taxes, yet still makes us believe that he can."

    Or, to quote the Rev. Richard Penniman, "Don't let your voice write a check that your rhythm (read: soul) can't cash."

  3. Hey guys, can't disagree with any of your comments, it's all that. However this album accompanied me through a tough spell in my life and I do have some fondness for it, overblown and bombastic as it is! Proof that even the biggest slice of crap (which this isn't) can still mean something to someone.