[29 January 2008]
Finally, we have the soundtrack for the straight-to-DVD Road House sequel John Cena is bound to star in next year (tentatively titled Road House 3: Seriously, Get the Hell Out of My Bar). If you listen to StoneRider’s debut record and you can’t picture a WWE Superstar busting wino heads in a dimly lit dive on the wrong side of the tracks, then you’re obviously afflicted with partial or complete deafness. Consult your physician immediately, do not operate any heavy machinery, and for God’s sake, don’t go poking around in there yourself.
Three Legs of Trouble is most assuredly Kentucky-fried parking lot rock, the kind of dust-bitten, guitar-heavy album perfect for peeling out in a Camaro to. Vocalist Matt Tanner has the sneering, classic rock bad boy vocal thing down pat. He uses the term “Mama” when addressing women, refers to himself as “The Juice Man”, and generally sounds like he’d give your daughter a disease. The rest of StoneRider proudly apes Skynyrd, Thin Lizzy, Mountain, and every other 1970s hard rock band worth their weight in snakeskin boots. I would not be surprised to learn these guys not only actively play Guitar Hero, but have gotten into fistfights during games (heck, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn StoneRider had a couple of songs on Guitar Hero).
All the elements for a great hard rock record are here—except, unfortunately, any creativity. The material on Three Legs of Trouble is all too similar sounding, running together to make one giant forty-five-minute mid-tempo bore. If you’ve heard just one of these greasy barfly anthems, you’ve heard the entire album. Tension-building introduction explodes into a steady beat with copious riffing/soloing, whilst Tanner throws off a few lines about some “wild child” who’s “always ready to go”. That repeats for about four minutes, until it all comes crashing down in a by-the-numbers wah-drenched ending. Like Coke, it may be a well-tested formula, but you can’t have that gross sugary crap with every meal.
StoneRider tries to mix things up towards the end of their inaugural album by dusting off a cover of that old Nazareth chestnut “Hair of the Dog”. As if we needed more proof these Atlanta rockers live for the glory days, when rock was rock, long hair and denim weren’t ironic, and shoes weren’t required at the 7-11. This selection proves a solid misstep, as the StoneRider boys play everyone’s favorite drunken revenge anthem just stiffly enough to make it sound pained and uncomfortable (like those dang shoes at the 7-11). To make matters worse, they cut “Hair of the Dog” off before the famous climactic ending. Instead, we get a couple of half-assed choruses and another quick shot of wah before the song awkwardly crashes to a stop. To paraphrase something Nicole Kidman once said about Tom Cruise, it’s far too short and deeply unsatisfying.
In the end, StoneRider’s Three Legs of Trouble isn’t anything we haven’t heard approximately six squillion times before and better since the fall of the Zeppelin/Sabbath empire. There are bands keeping the true spirit of ’75 alive these days in less tired and derivative manners. Hopefully, this Georgia quartet will follow those acts’ lead and experience a major sonic breakthrough in time for their next album. If that doesn’t happen, maybe they’ll happen upon a wormhole that will take them back in time to the Ford Administration, where they won’t seem so hapless.
Then again, there’s always the possibility of that Road House sequel. StoneRider might want to look into the idea of exclusively scoring straight-to-DVD action movies. There are countless Lou Diamond Phillips vehicles I can think of in desperate need of more red-blooded, generic American rock. Gentlemen, your career path lies before you. Get there before George Thorogood and ZZ Top beat you to it.