BON JOVI: CRUSH (2000)
1) It's My Life; 2) Say It Isn't So; 3) Thank You For Loving Me; 4) Two Story Town; 5) Next 100 Years; 6) Just Older; 7) Mystery Train; 8) Save The World; 9) Captain Crash & The Beauty Queen From Mars; 10) She's Mystery; 11) I Got The Girl; 12) One Wild Night; 13*) I Could Make A Living Out Of Lovin' You.
Thirty-eight is not an age to joke about — for some people, the nostalgic pull is stronger than ever around that particular time, and Crush is the first Bon Jovi album to ride the nostalgia vibe real seriously. Textual, musical, and atmospheric references to past idols abound here — the Beatles, Bowie, James Brown, and, of course, the young Bon Jovi themselves: ʽIt's My Lifeʼ opens the record with unmistakeable references to ʽLivin' On A Prayerʼ — in the reference to "Tommy and Gina", and in The Return Of The Son Of The Talkbox. On the whole, for the first time in his life, Jon seems to be looking backwards in his career rather than forward. Could this help to improve the music, considering how it had mostly been awful all the time he had been looking forward? Will the Beatles help?..
Not bloody likely. Given that «Bon Jovi» is really a disease, the best we can do about it is to keep it relatively harmless — sometimes even slightly enjoyable, as in a nice light warm fever when we are looking for an excuse to not get out of bed. From that point of view, Crush alternates between sickly convalescence, when the mind is no longer delirious but still too weak to pursue a serious course of action, and occasional painful relapses — whenever, for example, the band strikes up yet another «knight-in-shining-armor»-type power ballad (I am still trying to figure out which one makes for more efficient torture — ʽThank You For Loving Meʼ or ʽSave The Worldʼ; current bets are on the latter, if only for the atrocious lyrical metaphors: "I wasn't born a rich man / I ain't got no pedigree / The sweat on this old collar / That's my Ph.D.").
But there are some interesting lines of experimentation. The album's most ambitious undertaking is ʽNext 100 Yearsʼ, an epic anthem with grand harmonies à la ʽHey Judeʼ and swooping psychedelic orchestration that also apes the Fab Four circa 1967 (a few string lines are lifted almost directly from ʽI Am The Walrusʼ). Although the main part of the song is rather boring, the instrumental coda, especially when the tempo is accelerated and Sambora steps in with a harsh, but melodic solo, merging the borders between orchestral art-pop and hard rock, for a few minutes I manage to almost forget about what band it is that I am listening to. At the very least, ʽNext 100 Yearsʼ is miles above any overtly sentimental power pop ballad they ever did.
Another «kinda fun» track is ʽCaptain Crash & The Beauty Queen From Marsʼ, the band's tribute to the classic era of glam rock whose title by itself, as you can see, is immediately associated with Elton John and David Bowie at the same time. Nothing particularly inspiring about the generic midtempo rock melody of the song, but its nostalgic flair is surprisingly free of irritants — even the allusive line about "dressed up just like Ziggy but he couldn't play guitar" is funny, especially if you take it to be self-referential. And if I am not mistaken, ʽI Got The Girlʼ is an intentional attempt to write (and even sing!) a song in the style of Tom Petty's ʽAmerican Girlʼ or the like, and if you ask me, it's a big relief to hear it bounce and rock like that after the first verse has just threatened your life with the perspectives of yet another power ballad. In other words, if retrograde nostalgia results in unpredictable surprises, so be it.
That said, three decent songs are not enough to make up for a good album — which is still being dragged down, not just by the ballads, but also by stuff like ʽIt's My Lifeʼ (where the talkbox sounds stupid rather than scary, and the chorus is even more pedestrian than the one in ʽPrayerʼ) and the neo-country-rock of ʽMystery Trainʼ (no relation to the Elvis classic). At least, with all this nostalgic flavor, they had the good sense to end the record with a throwback to the good old days of totally dumb hair metal — ʽOne Wild Nightʼ is just the kind of song that goes perfectly well hand in hand with lion manes, freaky outfits, and flying over the stage with golden sparks rattling off the sides of your guitar. So, generally speaking, Crush is an improvement over These Days — a little less pretense, a little more surprise, maybe showing a little more maturity and sensibility to the band, but the tasteless parts and the boring parts stay as tasteless and boring as they'd ever been. Hey, God bless nostalgia in the children of the 1960s and early 1970s — at least it shows how growing up on the Beatles and David Bowie was healthier for the spirit than growing up on Bon Jovi.