God bless those bands on mp3.com, trying to make it or break it in the music world. All those testimonials on the site showing how such and such a band got picked up and signed by a MAJOR LABEL. Wow! Only problem is, everyone and their brother shows up and releases huge amounts of rotten music in the hopes of some big wig signing them on to a lucrative three album deal. But we know that’s not the case. Hell, no. Truth is, you’re lucky to even get heard in the bottomless pit that is mp3.com.
Anyway, here’s Johnny Bronco from Chester, New Jersey rocking their asses off as if it was still 1896 and bands like Poison and L.A. Guns were still topping the charts. The band’s pictures on the inside of the sleeve are hilarious. These guys look like they were rocking some state fair, right alongside perhaps Foghat or Argent! The band is comprised of Johnny Bronco himself on vocals, keyboards, and percussion, P. Cance on drums, percussion, and vocals, and J.D. on guitars, mandolin, vocals, percussion, keyboards, and programming. Whew, three percussionists!
So far, Johnny Bronco has netted 1,781 downloads on mp3.com (as of this writing), yet no one features them on any of the site’s radio stations. What gives? Aren’t these dudes thoroughly rocking? Perhaps not. Perhaps they need to jump up a couple decades and discard the hair spray. “Blind Ambition” starts out with a flanged bass riff straight outta the late ‘80s and then those Europe (The Final Countdown clowns, not the nation) synths kick in as Bronco decrees “Gotta make the grade, gotta make the cut / Ma says I’m crazy, thinks I’m a nut / Everyone tells me but I won’t listen / Make no mistake, I’m on a mission / Ha ha ha ha ha ha”. The guitars and drums interlock and do the whole early Enuff Z’Nuff thing (though with less flair) and you can almost see the smoke bombs going off and the chicks throwing their bras on the stage! Somehow though, I doubt the reality is like this, even as Bronco sings “I want it all and I want it now / Go to bed in New York, wake up in Moscow”. Hey, is the Cold War on again?
The weirdest track on this album is undoubtedly “The Skies Are Blue”. The band drops the heavy metal pretense and goes for something a little more on the prog rock side of the fence. The latter half of the tune sounds like some hellish cross between the worst moments of ELO and any moment of Styx’s. Imagine that, if you can. I’m still trying to clear my mind. Luckily, the boys get back down to rockin’ with their silly buzzsaw guitars and sloppy synths for “Ain’t Got a Ticket”. Trying to do their best impression of Aerosmith circa Pump, the guys chime in with the hot chorus “Train’s on time, but I ain’t got a ticket”. It might work if they actually put some effort into that singing, but they come across like a bored schoolboy chorus. Hurrah. Rock and roll.
Then there is the failed rock attempt in the goofy “Big Fat Zero” (how apt) that features plenty of vocoder work that spews such retro catch phrases as “That’s a Fact, Jack!” “Don’t Scream” sports a flat mix and the “spooky” whisperings of “Wake up!” during the introduction. Sounds like they were going for Cheap Trick’s “Voices” and missed by about 20 miles or so. Ah well, that’s Johnny Bronco for you. A decade late and a few dollars short.
Does anyone care about Johnny Bronco? After hearing Blind Ambition, I can’t say that I do. They’ll do if you’re hankering for a hunk of cheesy rock, but why bother when you can just go out and pick up a Faster Pussycat album anytime you like? Going retro is one thing, but Johnny Bronco’s idea of it is more than just a bit silly. Rock on, Mr. Bronco. You never know who might be listening at mp3.com.
// Notes from the Road
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