Pop quiz. Who is Bruce Kulick? How about John Corabi? Take your time, now. Your enjoyment of this album—a competent, even lovable lump of eighties-style hair metal—will double (at least) if you know the answer to these questions.
Of course, in short the answer to both questions is: members of Union. Each plays guitar, cranking out the thuddingly unfunky power chordage of their “classic rock” antecedents while the other guys in the band whack drums and bass real damned hard. Sonically, then, this reminds you of Boston or (listen up, alt-kids) Smashing Pumpkins. It sounds terrific, if well-played generic hardrock is the kind of music you like: multilayered guitars and (unintricately) interwoven vocals that lose no power or melodicism when the neighbors complain and you have to turn the volume down to 3.
Sure, if you’re feeling smart’n'arch you can read this as Camp. But for stretches at a time The Blue Room is formidably professional post-Zep that ought to appeal even more to those middle-aged white guys who thought that Kevin Spacey’s new car was the whole, unironic point of American Beauty. Check the I’m-not-dead-yet antagonism of “Who Do You Think You Are?,” whose refrain develops the couplet thus: “Who do you think you are, / Motherfucker?” (Not being snotty here: I do think that Union get their own joke.) And dig the Beatles references in the music of “Hypnotized” and the lyrics of “Everything’s Alright.” Okay, they may be sorta dumb and obvious, but if you’re not passing out grades for freshness, you can get away with calling them fun, witty-in-a-burned-out-doper way even.
Now, back to the pop quiz. John Corabi is, or was, formerly with Motley Crue. (Insert your own umlaut where appropriate and give yourself an extra point if you know Corabi’s former band simply as “The Crue.”)
And Bruce Kulick? Formerly of Kiss. If you can only think offhand of four specific guys in Kiss, then Bruce Kulick may strike you as merely the Curly-Joe of whiteface metal. But if you relish overblown guitar heroics, for their Wagnerian rather than comic content, then you already know his name and will revel in this record completely.
// Notes from the Road
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