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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Rene Shades

Teenage Heart Attacks & Rock'n'Roll Heaven

Review by Gary Hill

This is an album that qualifies as a good set, but it seems that it could have been great. I'm sure it's my personal tastes showing (as much as we try to more "describe" than "judge" music at MSJ, that's not fully possible because we are human), but a lot of this seems too "pop oriented." Don't get me wrong, it's not over-produced, and that's good. It just seems that a lot of the music is written and produced specifically for radio airplay. I don't know if that's a great plan, though, as I'm not sure there is a lot of market for this specific type of music in the world of pop music.

When the sound stretches beyond the pop zone, it gets into more rock based at times and more country styled at others. I think that perhaps focusing on one side a bit more over the other might have been a better option, but on the other hand variety is generally a good thing. Besides, these days people tend to listen to one song at a time, rather than a whole album, so perhaps the all-over-the-map approach is the best tactic in the modern world.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 2. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
The Brigade
This fades up gradually with an old school bluesy rock sound. As it really kicks in there is a bluesy Southern rock feeling to the cut. The vocal performance is on fire. The hooks are catchy, and this is such a strong opener. There is a killer harmonica solo later in the track, and the whole thing is really on fire.
Reckless
This has more of a melodic pop rock vibe. I can hear hints of things like U2 built into this, but the chorus has a much more pop music oriented vibe. This is catchy and effective. It's a bit too lightweight and generic for my tastes, though.
Superheroes
This still has a lot of that poppy edge, but not to the point of being annoying. There is an up-tempo rocking groove to it, and some catchy hooks. It's definitely a step up from the last number.
Forever Girl
A dramatic, mellower, atmospheric section starts this piece. Acoustic guitar comes in, still holding a lot of that drama and magic. The cut is a ballad that's powerful. It's one of the stronger tunes here and has a lot of style woven into it. It's still quite mainstream, but manages to be meaty at the same time. It gets more hard rocking further down the road. I love this song.
What Are You Waiting For (Rise)
Now, this is a great example of how a pop, nearly dance groove, can work. It's high-energy and catchy. There is still some meat in the mix. I could definitely hear this working on pop radio, but it still has enough style and real music in it to appeal to rockers.
Midnight in the City
Here is another that manages to hit the middle ground between more of a pop sound and a rocking one. There are some real classic rock elements built into the tune. It has some strong hooks and good energy. There is a rather meaty melodic guitar solo, too.
The American Dream
Sound bites of various politicians are heard at the intro to this cut. A hard rocking guitar sound joins to drive the cut forward. It takes on a bit of a pop country edge as it works out from there. While this cut has some meaty elements, it's not one of my favorites here for the bulk of the tune. There is a smoking hot guitar solo based movement later that is a real screamer, though.
Oh Susie
Now, this thing is cool. It's has a hard rocking edge tempered with some catchy, poppy hooks. It makes me think of glam rock hits by acts like Sweet. It's a classy song that's among the highlights of the set. There is a screaming hot guitar solo built into it, too.
Little Footsteps in the Sand
There are some Latin elements early in this number. The cut drives out from there with a pop rock sound. It has a good balance between mellower and more powered up sections. This is another with a lot of that pop music edge to it. It's a solid cut but not a highlight for me.
Pretty Little Lies
A hard rocking opening gives way to a very pop music oriented movement. After a vocal section some more meat is added in a more rocking arrangement. For me the poppier parts of this aren't all the effective, but the more rock oriented ones are.
Centerfold
This one has a lot of pop country in the mix, merged with a more pure pop rock sensibility. It's not a bad song by itself, but feels a bit samey in the context of the whole disc. The guitar solo is on fire, though.
Already Gone (feat. Brent Mason)
The country angle we've heard off and on here is the real driving factor of this number. It's energized and fun. While this is not my favorite tune here, it has more of a "real" edge to it than a lot of the others do. It works pretty well, and is a good choice for closer. There is a bit of a false ending on the tune with a reprise that includes some smoking hot jamming.
 
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