I had just finished writing a review of an album by one of those “we didn’t make it 30 years ago, maybe we’ll do it now” bands when it was time to sink my teeth into another one. I’m not trying to bash or make fun of those bands at all, I honestly wish that they had blown my mind with their new albums but unfortunately that seldom happens – and many are the bands that have tried. Spread Eagle. Tora Tora. Babylon A.D. Pretty Boy Floyd. Every Mother’s Nightmare. Autograph. None of them has put out reunion albums that delivered the goods – to my personal taste – and most of them are bands I wasn’t a fan of even back when, Autograph and Tora Tora excluded. Jetboy released a good one, though – and so did Black ‘N Blue, but in the case of the latter, that was eight years ago and not much has been heard of them since, which is a pity. This time it’s Melodic Rock/Arena Rock one-album-affair band Roxy Blue’s time to give it one more shot.
Roxy Blue was formed back in 1989 by vocalist/guitarist Ted Poole, guitarist Sid Fletcher, bassist Josh Weil and drummer Scott Trammell and musically they went in the melodic Hard Rock / American Arena Rock genre that was so popular back then. However, it would take the band all the way to 1992 to sign a contract and release their debut album Want Some? and by then, Grunge was starting to take over big time. Despited being found by Jani Lane of Warrant, signed by Tom Zutaut to Geffen, having Mike Clink as the producer and being managed by Doug Thaler, the album more or less bombed and that was that. The reason was of course that their style of music was yesterday’s news by then but also because Roxy Blue really didn’t have a sound of their own and just like many of their contemporaries like Southgang, Roxx Gang and Tainted Angel, Roxy Blue felt more like a band that jumped on that bandwagon a couple of years too late. Personally, I didn’t think they were crap but they didn’t exactly rock my world either. None of those bands did. 27 years later, Roxy Blue decided it was time for a follow up albeit with Jeff Caughron replacing Fletcher on guitar.
The album opens up with a real sleaze-bag of a song called “Silver Lining”. It’s way rougher, rawer and heavier than I remember Roxy Blue being back in ’92. It’s a grittier version of the band the shows up here with darker, Velvet Revolver like moments over a straight-forward and punchy rhythm that escalates in a refrain catchy enough for the early 90’s as 2019. However, the song doesn’t leave a mark on me an passes by somewhat unnoticed. Not bad but only ok at best. Leading single “Rockstar Junkie” comes across as a heavier Faster Pussycat, somewhat dark but a clear nod back to early 90’s sleaze. Again, it’s heavier than back when and again, the song isn’t that spectacular and without being crappy, it doesn’t stick either.
“Scream” is a mid-paced groover with a darker twist that brings to mind early to mid 90’s Arena Rock sounds that bands like Asphalt Ballet, War Babies and other one-album-only’s from that era. It’s sleazy enough and holds a tough outlook and a decent refrain. Again, it’s ok without impressing me much. With “Collide”, it’s power ballad time but instead of taking this acoustic guitar laden slow-piece back to the late 80’s, Roxy Blue puts on a modern twist and mixes it with early 90’s power-balladry. My first though was that it sounds like a Hinder ballad – think the brilliant “The Life” (All American Nightmare, 2010) – in a blender with your favorite choice of power ballad from back when. I haven’t listened to Roxy Blue’s debut for ages but I do remember their ballads being what I liked the most from that album and history seems to repeat itself because this is a great tune with lots of hit-potential. Make it a single, guys.
“Outta The Blue” goes back to the darker and grittier stuff. This one’s quite aggressive, ballsy and robust and it goes directly for the throat. With crunchy guitars and a fist-in-the-gut like rhythm section, the song brings back the sleazy sound of the early 90’s with a more pissed-off attitude. Still, the song fails to grab me and when it ended, it was erased from my brain. The acoustic guitars are picked up again when power ballad # 2, “Blinders”, comes along for the ride and it stands clear that, at least to these ears, this is the stuff that sounds most natural for the band, that this is where this band comes from. However, this one is heavier and crunchier than “Collide” and even has an edge to it. Maybe 2019 isn’t the the right time for early 90’s power ballads but who cares, Roxy Blue are damn good at writing and performing them and this is the stuff they should be going for. Not just ballads, of course, but the more Arena Rock tinged stuff. This is a great tune and again, I smell a single here.
“Til The River Runs Dry” brings on the rowdy attitude again – heaviness and aggression on a foundation of dirt and sleaze. It’s an ass-kicker for sure but also with a refrain that tries its best to stick but never quite reach its goal. Again, this is not bad – it just is, no more no less. The fat, heavy and gutsy “Human Race” comes with a big, headbang-friendly riff and moves into Metal territory, the modern side of Metal, that is. It holds a fierce groove with an alternative twist, a striking refrain and it’s a pretty good song but sticks out like a sore thumb and feels wrong on an album like this, it just don’t fit and it sounds like completely different band.
Latest video/single “How Does It Feel” is more laid-back with a stripped feel, slow on the ballad side, but not quite, but again with a modern touch and the flirtation with modern Rock radio is quite obvious. I still think it’s a really good song and sure, they might end up with a radio-hit here but just like the previous song, it feels like it lies on the wrong album with the wrong band. With the third modern Metal/Hard Rock song in a row, I wonder if Roxy Blue themselves knows which way they want to go because “What It’s Like” goes that way as well. Rough, rowdy and riff-happy in a mid-pace, the song sounds a bit late 90’s dated with the modern vibes on top, not very exciting but at the same time, not pure crap either. The closing, punchy and straight-forward rocker “Overdrive” slams away and kicks up dust, it roars like it’s here to bite your head off but it goes nowhere, doesn’t stick and when it’s over I wonder where the hell the song went.
While I sure can appreciate that Roxy Blue don’t want to make the same 1992 album again, that they want to develop, I sure can’t understand why they don’t go all the way on the style they think suits them. Modern Metal, early 90’s power ballads and gritty Sleaze Rock together might come across as variation but here it makes this album sound like a compilation album of three different bands with the same singer. That said, I could let that slide if they had the songs to go with it but unfortunately, they haven’t. I have always been a sucker for a good power ballad but I don’t own one album where I find the ballads the best songs, but here – and on their debut – they are. In fact, the ballads here are the only songs that stick at all. Sure, I wasn’t a fan to begin with but things can change throughout the years but from where I stand the only thing their 1992 debut and this record have in common is bland songs that goes nowhere.