BULLETBOYS – Elefanté

Bulletboys - ElefanteTo be honest, I didn’t know that Bulletboys were still alive. The question is, is there anyone left out there who actually know who Bulletboys are? For people my age that was around back in the early 90’s and watched Headbanger’s Ball constantly probably knows. But then again, how many actually care? Because in 2015, only lead singer Marq Torien and the name is left and to still call the band Bulletboys feels like an act of desperation. Another question is, will this band actually get to sell more copies of this album or get booked to more festivals or gigs if they use the Bulletboys moniker instead of, say, just Torien? I guess we’ll never know the answer to that, but I’m sceptical. It could actually be the other way around. Bulletboys rose from the ashes of Melodic Rock band King Kobra, formed by drummer Carmine Appice back in 1984, when he handpicked guitarists Mick Sweda and David Michael Philips, bass player Johnny Rod (later in W.A.S.P.) and lead vocalist Mark Free (now named Marcie and fronting AOR band Unruly Child), but after two albums Free and Rod jumped the ship and was replaced by bassist Lonnie Vencent and lead singer Marq Torien. But when nothing happened, Torien, Sweda and Vencent left the band and formed Bulletboys with drummer Jimmy D’Anda. The original King Kobra are back together today with new singer Paul Shortino (ex Rough Cutt / Quiet Riot) and has made two albums with that line-up. Bulletboys made it big when their hit single “Smooth Up In Ya” helped their Ted Templeman (Van Halen, Montrose) produced self titled debut from 1988 go gold (500 000 sold copies) in the States alone. However, their 1991 follow-up Freakshow didn’t do that well at all – which was too bad as the record is a killer and even better than the debut. The band gave it one more try with ZaZa in 1993, but by then grunge had taken over and Bulletboys didn’t stand a chance. The album wasn’t bad, but it didn’t sound focused at all. Sweda and D’Anda left the band and Torien and Vencent released Acid Monkey in 1995 with guitarist Tommy Pittam and drummer Robby Karras, but no one was interested anymore. Since then, Torien has kept the Bulletboys ship afloat and released some albums with an ever flowing stream of musicians coming in and out of the band. The longest surviving member of Bulletboys except for Torien is guitarist Nick Rozz who joined in 2009. The rest of the band consists of bass player Chad McDonald and drummer Shawn Duncan and this is the band that has just released a new album, Bulletboys’ first since 2009’s 10c Billionaire, if you don’t count 2011’s cover album Rocked And Ripped.

When I first listened to this record, I didn’t know what to expect and I had certainly no expectations at all. Would the sound on this album be even remotely close to Bulletboys’ two first records?  Of course, Torien’s very personal voice makes you think of Bulletboys directly, but the singer’s voice is often a big part of a band’s identity, so go figure. The album open with “Rollover”, a good enough sleaze groover, but the way it sounds has more in common with early Guns N’ Roses than Bulletboys. I don’t think that “Tsunami” has the classic Bulletboys sound either, but it is a good melodic rocker with a psychedelic influence and a really strong melody. Same with “Symphony” – it has really good melody and an intrusive pop feel over the sleazy rock that is the song’s foundation. “The Villain” sets itself apart a bit with its electronic dance beat. It gives the song a good groove. It’s still very much a rocker, though. “Kin Folk” is an acoustic based ballad, a very good one and the melody is really catchy. It sounds like ZaZa‘s better moments. I really like “Saving You From Me” as well. It’s a sleazy pop song, think if Guns N’ Roses Appetite For Destruction had been a pop record. The pop continues with “As Dumb As”, a really catchy pop metal tune that could have been a big MTV hit in 1990. “Superhuman Girl”, on the other hand doesn’t go anywhere. It’s noisy, clattering and blunt and the whole thing lacks melody and structure – it sounds more like an unfinished demo. “Drop Your Weapons” doesn’t go all the way either. It’s a decent song, but it sounds alternative, like a darker kind of sleaze. Sleaze-grunge? But the best song on the album comes next and is called “The Bitch Is Back”. It swings like crazy with a big 70’s sound and a horn section. This sounds more like Rolling Stones back in 1972 than a Bulletboys tune. I get the answer why when I google the album. It’s an Elton John cover. I think Elton John has some really good songs, but I’m pretty clueless of most of his stuff. It’s from 1974 and his album Caribou. The album closes with the title track, an instrumental piece that leaves me looking like a question mark. What do they want with this? The song has no hook, no coherent melodies, just three guys playing their instruments in some sort of jam that don’t sound like a jam at all. While listening to it, I got the feeling like they guys wanted it to be a “real” song, but didn’t have the time (or money) to finnish it properly.

So is Elefanté (I have no idea what they want to say with the title…) anything to hang  in your Christmas tree, then? Well, it is a good album, but apart from Torien’s voice – a voice that is still intact – I really can’t find anything on here that sound like the Bulletboys we grew to love in the late 80’s. It’s a rock album, yes. A hard rock album with a bit of sleaze, but remove Torien’s voice and this could any sleaze band at all. Torien’s band is faultless as musicians, but somewhat anonymous and even though (most of) the songs are really good, they are all a bit forgettable, really good as long as you listen to them, but they’re hard to remember once the record is done. I lost all interest in Bulletboys after ZaZa and even though I knew that the band had released a few records since then, I could never be arsed to bother with listening to them – without most of the original line-up, I haven’t found the interest. So why this album, then? No reason at all, actually, I just felt like it. But the thing is, if it says Bulletboys, that’s the way it will judged and then it doesn’t matter that Torien is the only original member left. And as a Bulletboys album, it’s not really there. But as a Marq Torien solo album, I think the rating probably would have been higher. A good album, no more, no less.

6/10

Tracklist:

01. Rollover
02. Tsunami
03. Symphony
04. The Villain
05. Kin Folk
06. Saving You From Me
07. As Dumb As
08. Superhuman Girl
09. Drop Your Weapon
10. Bitch Is Back
11. Elefanté

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