It’s just a few days since I was last sat behind the keyboard waxing lyrical about the return of Swedish sleaze rockers Backyard Babies, now Century Media are at it again, messing with my musical memory banks with the return of Buckcherry, another band who thankfully saved me from a life a beige back at the tail end of the nineties.
The connections don’t end there either as just like with BYBs I pretty much fell out of love with Buckcherry around the time their albums started to contain the same amount of ballads you’d expect to find on a Celine Dion long player, and then when the news broke In May 2017 that guitarist Keith Nelson was leaving the band you’ll forgive me for thinking that things might just be over for Buckcherry.
How wrong could I be though, as here they are back with a bang in 2019 with studio album number eight and wearing the ‘Warpaint’ this time around singer Josh Todd is the sole survivor from the ‘Lit Up’ years whilst guitarist Stevie D is still there at his side from Crazy Bitch’ era. Also in attendance this time around are ex-Orson man Kevin Roentgen on guitar (he was also in the rather splendid American Pearl who opened for Buckcherry back in the early 00s), bassist Kelly LeMieux and the already departed Sean Winchester on drums.
Having rolled my eyes into the back of my horse’s head at the band’s pointless cover of Nine Inch Nail’s ‘Head Like A Hole’ which is also included here, I’d deliberately stayed away from any other album teasers as I really wanted to fall in love with Buckcherry all over again, and with ‘Warpaint’ kicking off with the album’s title track I’m pleased to say that some of that initial fire the band had in their stomachs around the time of their first two albums appears to have returned, BUT, and this is a big BUT, the overall feel I get is one of a band slightly holding back, as the acoustic lead ‘Right Now’ proves. This is a track that should explode from the speakers after the initial strut of the verse but instead, it pops and fizzes along where it should really be ripping your throat out.
I thought it was me initially, but I’ve also noted some other people on social media commenting about the mix being a bit subdued, however to point the finger solely at Mike Plotnikoff (who manned the desk on this project as he had done on their third album’15’) to me seems a bit harsh as when the band do ultimately slip into ballad territory as they do on ‘Radio Song’ and ‘The Hunger’ the sound simply soars. Surely there were more pairs of ears in the control room than Mike’s when the bite and crunch that should be there on the guitars on the opening riff for ‘The Vacuum’ end up muffled below the rhythm section? Still, it’s a good song, with a great vocal melody from Todd. I just wish again that the killer instinct was a bit more to the front.
Where ‘Warpaint’ does score a full 10 for me is on the superb ‘Bent’ (a track that could have fallen off the band’s classic and hugely underrated ‘Time Bomb’ album) and on the double time almost country-tinged shuffle of ‘No Regrets’, both tracks showing that Buckcherry are anything but a spent musical force.
Likewise, the gospel-tinged ‘Back Down’ is a sultry little number that could be a sleeper hit single whilst ‘Closer’ thunders along on an AC/DC like staccato riff that immediately has me tapping my hoof.
Look I’d love to say this is the best thing Buckcherry have recorded since ‘15’ just like Josh Todd is doing in the press rounds right now, but I can’t, simply because it isn’t, and tracks like ‘The Alarm’ plus album closer’ The Devil’s In The Detail’ just aren’t up there with the likes of ‘Onset’ and ‘Broken Glass’ the tracks they (kind of) correspond with if you stand the two albums alongside one another.
Make no mistake though ‘Warpaint’ is still a really decent hard rock album, and it is a breath of fresh air compared to the turgid bullshit being peddled as the next big thing by certain other record labels, it’s just for me it lacks that immediate knockout punch that some of the band’s previous album possessed in spades, so for now, I’ll leave my love-light on standby.
Buy ‘Warpaint’: Here
Author: Johnny Hayward