Bucking the Odds
Back at the dawn of the new millennium, it seemed that Buckcherry might save rock and roll. The band exploded onto the scene in 1999 with a raucous self-titled debut, and quickly drew critical acclaim as the heir apparent to Guns N’ Roses. Vocalist Josh Todd boasted a potent mix of Axl Rose and Steven Tyler in his delivery, while his musical cohorts conjured the hard partying spirit of Johnny Thunders. Riding the tide of the massive hit single “Lit Up”, Buckcherry was marketable enough to sell albums and get radio airplay, but dangerous enough to retain a gritty reputation and credibility amongst fans and industry types alike. It was generally thought that if Buckcherry didn’t destroy itself, it would step to the forefront as a major player in the studio and on stage. But after a somewhat disappointing sophomore effort, 2001’s Time Bomb, the band went on hiatus and subsequently endured the dreaded personnel changes. Yet with the release of 15, Buckcherry shows that a new line-up is capable of capturing the old sound with fairly impressive results.
The band’s previous outings stuck to a simple blueprint, that of paying tribute to the time-honored trifecta of sex, drugs and rock’n'roll. Avoiding the temptation to explore lyrical and thematic sophistication, Buckcherry stays the course with 15, opening the album with a flourish and incorporating as many hard-edged influences as possible. “So Far” explodes from behind a wall of tasty riffing and Todd’s raspy yelp, segueing into the heavy twang of “Next 2 You”, both of which firmly re-establish the band as a powerful guitar-driven entity. “Out of Line” does nothing to alter this perception, as it maintains a distinctly Cult-ish feel, while anchored by a solo that mirrors Slash’s best work with GN’R.
As with most bands, Buckcherry breaks up 15 with three changes of pace: the U2-flavored pop of “Everything” and the melodic casualness of “Carousel” and “Sorry”. Treading the fine line between bluesy meandering and gratuitous balladry, the tracks are serviceable nonetheless, and provide a satisfactory compliment to the album’s predominant aggressiveness. Fortunately though, Todd leads his mates back to where they need to be, which is the raging sex romp of “Crazy Bitch”. Primitive sleaze at its best (and harkening back to vintage Aerosmith), the track encapsulates all that Buckcherry is, challenging “Lit Up” as the band’s calling card. Ironically, the single is receiving considerable press, as much for its censor-this-immediately lyrics as for its solid rock tune playability.
Todd and band soldier forth with “Onset”, a sneering three-minute-30 assault on the senses, then downshift into “Sunshine”. Yet another band signature song, it includes enough fast-paced riffing to satisfy most head bangers, and sufficient shake-yer-ass rhythms to forget the Black Crowes. It’s obvious Buckcherry has used its time off wisely, sharpening the hooks that made it so attractive when initially storming the charts seven years ago, and getting back to familiar ground. This is a band that simply needs to plug in and play what it knows best.
And by recapturing the original fire of its debut album, how could Buckcherry appropriately close out 15? By seamlessly melding the past and present… LA’s Cherry boys jet across the country to New York via the Delta with “Brooklyn”, an impressive bluesy jaunt which again harnesses Aerosmith’s finest moments. The slide guitar calm is quickly shattered, however, with the appropriately titled “Broken Glass”. Todd yells and screeches his way through this trash rock gem, spitting out lyrics with enough rapid-fire anger to let everyone know Buckcherry has lost nothing during its transition period.
Critics will note that Buckcherry’s music hasn’t evolved much beyond what it was on 1999’s inaugural recording. But in the case of 15, finding that musical comfort zone is exactly what Buckcherry needed to do. If you’re looking for studio flash and polish, 15 ain’t it. But if you like your music dirty and fun, sprinkled with some genuine rock aggression, Buckcherry’s third effort should get you lit up nicely.
// Notes from the Road
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