NELSON – Peace Out!

nelson_-_peace_outIt was the beginning of the 90’s, a time when MTV stood for Music Television and actually played music. If the stereo wasn’t on in my flat, MTV sure was. One day, a smooth, silky sound came from my living room where the TV set was, acoustic guitars, fine tuned melodies and then soft voices. The melody stuck instantly. What was this? I had to stop doing whatever I was doing and watch it. On the TV were two blonde twins in a video full of colours and the chorus just knocked me out. The song was called “Love And Affection”, the band was called Nelson and the album, which I bought the day after, was called After The Rain – one of the best AOR albums of all time. I must admit that I thought it was cool that they had recruited Vinnie Vincent’s old drummer Bobby Rock as well. Now, 25 years later, that album still stands tall and haven’t been affected by the hands of time one bit. When the video was over, I thought, “man, these dudes will be force-fed some major crap from now on”. Why? Well, first of all, their music wasn’t exactly death metal and if there are pretentious people anywhere, it’s within the hard rock and metal community. With their cute looks, long blonde hair, their colourful clothes and their soft rock songs, sometimes cheese deluxe (and I mean that in a good way), the boys were lambs to slaughter, a perfect target for the true metalhead. This is exactly what happened and it got worse when the boys debut album shipped millions and millions of copies world-wide. For a year or so, in 1990, Nelson were huge. But tough guys like Sebastian Bach wasn’t merciful when it came to commenting on them. It probably hurt that they sold more records and probably got more and hotter chicks than Bach and his then band, Skid Row. But their success didn’t last long. Just within a year or so, music had started to change and all melodic rock bands had started to get heavier and harder and when grunge made it big, well, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what happened to bands that fit the description I wrote above. Needless to say, Gunnar and Matthew Nelson couldn’t even get arrested in the mid 90’s. The guys recorded an album that took them in a heavier direction, Imaginator, but the album was too heavy for their record company who shelved it. The album was released in 1996, luckily enough because that album is great. But it would take the brothers five more years to be able to release the follow-up, a more acoustic based record called Because They Can in 1995 – a good album for sure, but it wasn’t the follow-up I had wished for. After that things turned quiet for the band, but the brothers actually did keep on playing live and releasing records, in a smaller scale, to put it mildly. For curious people, Nelson released The Silence Is Broken in 1997 and Life in 1999, but also a country flavoured pop album under The Nelsons moniker – all of them are really good and recommended to AOR fans. But then things became really quiet and apart from the tribute album the brothers recorded for their dad, the famous musician Ricky Nelson – Like Father, Like Sons in 2000, it would take ten years before we saw a sign of life from Nelson. But in 2010 a really unexpected reunion took place, the Timotei Twins were back – and their come back album, Lightning Strikes Twice – was damn brilliant. I can’t imagine any fan of AOR and melodic rock putting the chainsaw on that album. Which leads us to today, five years later when the Nelson twins releases their brand new album, Peace Out! A title that says a lot really, as Nelson has decided that this will be their last ever rock album. A bit drastic, I think.

The album starts with “Hello Everybody”, an uptempo power pop song with some great rocking vibes. I hear a lot of Cheap Trick here, but also Tainted Windows, the power pop band that featured Taylor Hanson (Hanson), guitarist James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins) and Bun E Carlos (Cheap Trick), a great way to start this album. “Back In The Day” – yes, the title really speak volumes and you don’t need lots of imagination to figure out what it is about – is a brilliant, late 80’s influenced melodic rocker. If you liked Nelson’s last album, you’ll dig this song for sure. If it was 1990 instead of 2015, “Invincible” would have been all over MTV and radio, a total 80’s hit rocker with a chorus more sticky than honey – and yes, it’s brilliant! The same with “Let It Ride”, a pop fueled rocker with a melody that will get inside your brain whether you like it or not. The twins brings out a big Def Leppard influence in the killer “I Wanna Stay Home”, albeit a little more pop than Sheffield’s finest. The first real ballad on the album is called “On The Bright Side” and is almost too cheesy for comfort. I can be sucker for a good power ballad, but a ballad needs to stay focused on the rock more than on the cheese and this song is right on the limit. The first single, “Rock Star”, is an awesome melodic rocker and again, in 1990 this song would have shipped this album platinum. “Rock Star” goes hand in hand with “Autograph”, a pop song in a rock disguise that brings out a big smile on my face – this is how I like my AOR! “What’s Not To Love” is a great pop rocker and yes, what’s not to love about it, really? Nothing. It’s total Nelson and sounds like it comes from the last album’s sessions. “You And Me” is the real hard rock song on this record, a riff happy groover that must get a place in their set list at their gigs. “Bad For You” is a pretty heavy piece, still AOR, but heavy with a brilliant and catchy riff and a killer melody – great stuff! The closing ballad “Leave The Light On For Me” is actually the sore thumb on this album. While being a total Nelson ballad, it contains both a big blues and gospel influence and the manages to leave all the cheese and butter out, all of which makes the song stand out.

If you like Nelson, then this album is a no-brainer and you can pretty much buy it unheard. But if you think that early Nelson was too cheesy, but that their last album Lightning Strikes Twice was good, then you’ll dig this one as well because this album is pretty much a sister album to that record, both in sound and style. As you might have noticed, I really can’t find one bad song on here and if you listen with an open mind and don’t listen to what pretentious “true” heavy metal people say about them, there are lots of goodies to sink your teeth into here. If there is one thing that I’m not completely satisfied with, then it’s the production. It has the same flat and claustrophobic sound scape as the last album had and it also could have used a bit more bite. But, no worries, the production isn’t Ron Nevison-bad. If the boys decides to quit rock and walk in their daddy’s shoes musically, playing country music instead, then this is a really great way to go out with. But I hope that the brothers will hang on their rock for dear life because it would be such a waste of talent not to – I’m sure that Gunnar and Matthew has many, many more albums in them. Besides, they still haven’t played Sweden Rock Festival. You can’t quit until mid June 2016, boys. You hear me?

Jon Wilmenius (8/10)

Tracklist:

1. Hello Everybody
2. Back in The Day
3. Invincible
4. Let It Ride
5. I Wanna Stay Home
6. On The Bright Side
7. Rockstar
8. Autograph
9. Whats Not To Love?
10. You And Me
11. Bad For You
12. Leave The Light On For Me

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