[18 January 2012]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
I don’t think this Los Angeles band (originally from England) was inspired by Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, especially considering that the band apparently formed in 2005 – well before the book was published in 2008 – but let’s just put it out there that the novel’s heroine eats “pale purple melon” for breakfast in one early scene. I don’t know about you, but I’m tempted to say “yuck”. Well, the group featured here makes a confusing amalgam of cross-pollinated music that will either sound exotic and appealing to less discerning music fans, or, for those who care about quality music, might leave you reaching for the vomit pail at times.
Essentially, on Henry’s Rocket, the group has three modes. They’re either marrying big, arena-sized riffs a la Cheap Trick with a Southern style of guitar rock that somewhat recalls Kings of Leon. That side is occasionally successful, especially when the band multi-tracks vocal harmonies such as on opener “Kings of the World”. Then, the band has a soft, sensitive side shown in Queen-like piano-led ballads, such as the title track and “Don’t Give Up”. Those moments are purely saccharine – though “Henry’s Rocket” does have a nice, rousing chorus ripped out of ‘70s glam rock – and they put the brakes on the bracing big rock sound that Purple Melon tries to bring to the table. Then, there are songs like “Annabella”, which is a bizarre attempt at fuzz-guitar-adorned barroom country-rock-pop. So, overall, it should be no surprise that Henry’s Rocket is a limited success. I will say that it is meticulously produced, and you can feel the shine coming out of your speakers. It has that going for it, at least. However, the ballads stop the album cold, some of the attempts at straight rave-ups are a bit on the rote side, and the band is mired in cliché: no less than three of the 10 songs here feature the word “love” in their titles.
All in all, Henry’s Rocket isn’t great. The album treads water in a kind of weird hinterland of confused identity. The more that you listen to it, the more you’ll want to listen to the bands that Purple Melon has been inspired by: Queen, Cheap Trick and Kings of Leon. Henry’s Rocket, despite its attempt at making hybrids, is just big, dumb, arena rock that reaches for the back of the bleachers. I’m not quite retching after listening to this, but my stomach feels woozy and think I’m going to need some Pepto-Bismol.