Release Date: 18 Mar 2022
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I think there's a mindset, if anyone actually thinks about it, that pop music and rock music are two separate things and the modern split between the two was epitomised in the rivalry between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The former were pop and the latter were rock and you kind of had to choose sides back then, even though I'm sure most people really didn't. Generally speaking, it's certainly a lot easier to see the Stones in rock and metal, even if you have to really trawl through a long lineage if you're listening to Impaled Nazarene. Here's a great example why that isn't always true.
Chip Z'Nuff is, of course, the bassist and rhythm guitarist with Enuff Z'Nuff, a band who showed up at exactly the wrong time and got unfairly associated with the glam metal genre, which they had a tiny amount to actually do with. He's their lead singer nowadays too, but this is a solo album and a mindset that has seen Enuff Z'Nuff gradually morph into a modern American take on the Beatles infuses this solo album too, even with a line-up that features members of Whitesnake and Guns n' Roses.
The Church nails that primary influence on the door in a mere forty-nine seconds of intro. This is a late Beatles era album, between Sgt. Pepper and the White Album. The songs that follow confirm that but also highlight that Z'Nuff is updating that sound to a more modern setting, via a bundle of other Beatles-inspired pop/rock bands, some of which are gimmes and others that seem a little more surprising. From the former category, Cheap Trick are namechecked on I Still Hail You.
Heaven in a Bottle reminds just how much Cheap Trick owe to the Beatles, so it's not too shocking to discover that Daxx Nielsen plays acoustic drums on this album. Daxx is the son of Cheap Trick's lead guitarist Rick Nielsen, of course, but he's also their current drummer, with a full dozen years behind their kit. Roll On reminds just how much ELO owe to the Beatles too. There's plenty of ELO in 3 Way as well, though that also points the way to the Mott the Hoople cover to close things out, which is a perky take on Honaloochie Boogie that owes as much to T Rex and Tom Petty as it does to Mott.
There are other sounds here, especially early on, after the intro gets us in the mindset. Welcome to the Party is rather like the Beatles playing Nirvana (the nineties one, not the psychedelic band from the sixties), because they just wouldn't be able to lose that perkiness even if they're playing deliberately non-perky material. For much of its running time, Doctor is a typical Sgt. Pepper era song but there are points where it drops into Saigon Kick. Ordinary Man adds some Living Colour-esque riffing midway, which I'd like to have heard more often.
The lead guitar here is played by Joel Hoekstra, who keeps showing up on a variety of albums I'm reviewing—not just his own band, Joel Hoekstra's 13, but albums by Michael Sweet, Rob Moratti and Whitesnake, which I guess we could call his day job—and, as that suggests, he's a thoroughly versatile guitarist who can play this material any way Z'Nuff wants him to. What I like about what he does here is that it doesn't seem to be much at all, if we don't think about it. There's guitar on the album where it should be but we don't really notice it. Until we do. And then we start to grasp just how much Hoekstra is doing without it seeming like he's doing anything.
I can't say this is going to be my favourite album of the year, but a good part of that is because I've always been a much bigger fan of the Stones than the Beatles, even if I like the latter too. I have a feeling that the more you skew the other way, the more you'll like this. It's a solid pop/rock album, even if the best songs may show up late. I'd call out 3 Way as the best, with Heroin chasing it, if you pardon the pun, with its tasty western harmonica, and they're the last two until the Honaloochie Boogie cover closes things out. It's a good way to end an album, even if I'm not the target audience.
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