Style: Hard Rock
Release Date: 8 Nov 2019
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Many bands have surprised me by still existing in 2019, but Quiet Riot are the easy exception. They've split up and reformed more times than I've been able to get up in the morning, with line-up changes on what often felt like a weekly basis, so that absolutely nothing surprises me about them any more.
For instance, their current vocalist, who's returning for a second stint in the band, is Jizzy Pearl, of Love/Hate fame. However, he isn't on Hollywood Cowboys, which was released less than two weeks ago, because that's James Durbin, who quit in September. This is his second album with the band after 2017's Road Rage, which was originally recorded with Seann Nicols but then redone with Durbin. Clearly they didn't want to do that again, because the scenario is the same. Durbin was singer #6 with Quiet Riot just since they got back together again in 2010. Pearl is #4 and #7.
For a while I was a little underwhelmed. This is more hard rock than heavy metal, content to sit back and relax a little. And that's fine, except that this is a band with a serious history as a heavy metal band. They fed Randy Rhoads to the Blizzard of Ozz. They claim that their take of Slade's Cum On Feel the Noize was the first metal song to crack the Billboard Hot 100 and Metal Health was the first metal album to reach number one. I'm not sure if those claims are true but it certainly sold six million copies just in the States and arguably ushered in the hair metal era.
So this is mild by comparison. The songs aren't bad. They're just softer and slower for the most part and missing a Randy Rhoads edge, even a Carlos Cavazo edge. They're capable but many of them feel unfortunately generic. A song like Don't Call It Love feels like a patchwork quilt of other material, like a recipe that calls for a bowl full of Mötley Crüe with a pinch of Led Zeppelin and a soupcon of Great White, all turned down to be more polite. A song like Heartbreak City is decent and well performed but it's doomed to be generic. Honestly, how many bands from LA have never recorded a song called Heartbreak City?
I think part of the problem is that Durbin is a decent singer but he hasn't found his own identity yet. He did well on American Idol and I can see why: he has a solid set of pipes and he can seamlessly change his performance to sound like whatever the theme is this week. The problem is that, while he's able to be this singer or that singer or even that one over there, he's not sure how to be James Durbin yet. He's like the best karaoke singer ever who doesn't have a voice of his own. I hope he finds it. The potential is there.
There are a dozen songs here so I'll call the first six side one. I enjoyed listening through that a few times but the only things I took away were the bands they'd channelled into the music. I found myself singing Wild Side by the Crüe because that's so much of Don't Call It Love. I liked the sound on The Devil That You Know, but it's just seventies Uriah Heep tweaked for the new decade of the eighties. These songs are enjoyable but forgettable, with the best moment being the talent show vocal showcasing that Durbin nails on Roll On.
It was side two that started to impress me, not least because it kicked off with Insanity, which is much more like it! It kicks off hard with wild and untamed guitars and proceeds at a serious pace. For the first time, this is the band that Randy Rhoads founded to kick ass. Last Outcast has some balls too, though mostly courtesy of Banali's stampeding drums. There's some Quiet Riot in here, despite themselves. I even liked Hellbender, because Durbin is able to find a cool vocal line over a seventies rock song.
I've liked Quiet Riot for as long as I've liked rock music, even if I prefer the Slade originals over their far more famous covers. A Quiet Riot without the drama of Kevin DuBrow? Hell yeah! I'm the right audience for this. That band's in here too, just far too infrequently. I know they aren't as safe as this album makes them sound. Let's see what the next will be like with Jizzy Pearl rocking it up. Assuming he hasn't left again by then, of course.