BOSTON: LIFE, LOVE & HOPE (2013)
1) Heaven On Earth; 2) Didn't Mean To Fall In Love; 3) Last Day Of School; 4) Sail Away; 5) Life, Love & Hope; 6) If You Were In Love; 7) Someday; 8) Love Got Away; 9) Someone; 10) You Gave Up On Love; 11) The Way You Look Tonight.
I suppose that the main, if not only, purpose of this album is to serve as a respectful memento mori for Brad Delp, who committed suicide on March 9, 2007, apparently in a serious state of mental depression — certainly not something you'd associate with the guy's vivaciousness on Boston's classic records, but certainly not the first time, either, when the old «beneath this mask I am wearing a frown» quotation hits home way too hard.
Although, as usual, Scholz took quite a bit of time getting there, so that the tribute came six years after his companion's demise, there is a lot of Brad Delp on this record — three out of ten tracks feature him singing, although all of them are re-recordings or re-masters of songs from Corporate America. But before we go shooting off our mouths about what sort of idiot would want to hear musical dreck like ʽDidn't Mean To Fall In Loveʼ all over again, let us simply remember that these songs are here again for a special commemorative purpose. (And even if they are not, we will all play gallant, right, and still assume that they are, okay?).
That said, it is kinda useless to pretend that, as a whole, this album does not suck. With the last vestiges of songwriting instinct having slipped away from Scholz on Corporate America, there was hardly any hope of the good fairy revisiting him for the next installment in the Boston saga, and Life, Love & Hope does not disappoint: it sounds exactly like Corporate America, only worse. This time, the man has not even bothered to hire a real drummer — apparently, all the beats have been programmed to sound like «real drums», but «real» they ain't, much like everything else about this extremely stiff, plastic, unengaging record.
If you want a very quick, but efficient checkup on what Tom Scholz's musical qualification looks like these days, the two-minute instrumental ʽLast Day Of Schoolʼ will probably do the job — there you have the programmed drums, and the traditional Brian May-like «orchestral guitars», and the familiar «ka-boom!» guitar thunderbolts sewing the verse/refrain parts together, and the entire «been there, done that» feeling, as the song's formally anthemic sound is so familiar, yet so predictably uninteresting. And this is arguably the best track on the entire album — everything else will be drowned in inadequate levels of pomp and sentimentality, one big bad ballad after another until you are totally ready to «give up on love» and go for good old BDSM instead.
The amazing thing is that there are something like eight different lead vocalists employed by Scholz throughout — and yet I cannot tell one from the other, with the obvious exception of Kimberley Dahme on ʽIf You Were In Loveʼ. And the atmosphere of all the songs is so similar and monotonous that... well, I never thought I'd be able to wish for another nasty rant against «corporate America» on Scholz's part, but a couple of these would at least battle for my attention for a few minutes. As it is, the album is so smooth, it will probably slither through your bowels and come out whole without you even noticing. And who needs great guitar riffs anyway, when all that really matters is being able to state «all you need is love» in a dozen near-identical ways?
Actually, the really amazing thing is that this sorry carcass of an album still managed to rise to No. 37 on the US charts, which is even a little higher than Corporate America — given that the album came out six years after Brad Delp's death, we probably could not ascribe this to the sensation factor, but rather to the fact that as long as «the army of classic rock fans» still exists, any single record issued under the name of «Boston» will always have a chance of selling. Who's got the nerve to pull ʽMore Than A Feelingʼ off the airwaves, anyway? So my thumbs down will not make too much of a difference. But still, there you go — you wanted to make sure that Tom Scholz's music still sucks in the 2010s? Check. It still sucks. With luck, it'll still suck in the 2020s. There's really nothing like good old stability and tenacity when it comes to Art.