We’re still waiting for the first truly successful modern rock band. Apart from million-selling Vertical Horizon, there’s been plenty of good records that have been commercial failures and a few bands that have achieved at least respectable sales figures. Displaying an intriguing blend of hard rock aggression and pop subtlety, Detroit-based Bliss 66 could well be the band to break out.
Certainly, seeing producer Glen Ballard’s name on the booklet of Trip to the 13th almost guarantees a certain level of commercial consistency and it’s clear Epic has earmarked three or four of the songs for an assault on pop, as well as rock, radio. Semi-ballads “Ain’t This the Feeling” and “Not Quite Paradise” will surely join the rocky “Sooner or Later” on play lists anytime soon, as should the gloriously haunting pop delicacy of “Crazy World”.
However, there’s more, much more to Bliss 66 than the obvious singles, as “Do It Again” — a deliciously modern slice of alt-rock — proves. The song’s pumping rhythm jostles for supremacy with the clearly defined melodies, whilst the moody, delicate “Fly Away”, with its distorted effects and dreamy yet rocking chorus is another standout. The straight ahead bluster of “Trip” positively drips with sweat and shows all the energy and hunger you would expect of an emerging band
It’s not just guitarist Aaron Schossau’s songwriting fusion of modern hard rock with real pop tendencies that impresses — the fervent vocals of 19-year-old Cheyenne Goff are just as noteworthy, and betray his youth throughout, demonstrating particular depth on the forceful opener “Paramount” and the closing piano-led tune, “Defense”. Overall, Trip to the 13th proves modern rock albums needn’t be bland, heartless affairs, but instead is a lesson in how new bands can adapt the traditional ingredients of melody and arrangement to make the kind of rock music that befits the year 2001. As a result, Bliss 66 has delivered one of the most satisfying debuts this year. Here’s hoping it keeps the label number-crunchers happy too.