How do you like your rock music? Do you like the bombastic, fist-pumping beats and massive hooks of an AC/DC? Or is it the smoother, slidier six-string sound of an Arctic Monkeys, with their poetic wordplay? Maybe you long for the bygone days, when bands were for men who took no shit, playing hard before getting off stage to their other three loves: their bike, their woman (often found writhing on top of a car somewhere), and their bland American beer.
If the latter appeals to you, you may just like Cork “powerhouse” (their quotation marks, not GoldenPlec’s) rockers Raising Jupiter and their album ‘A Better Balance’. They hate disco, take no shit and, in Violette, main character in song Violette, they have the troubled lady they care for.
Indeed, as the album closer, Violette is a good summation of the album. Nicely structured, it starts off on the acoustic guitar, with Dave Aitken’s vocals sitting powerfully on top, before building with strings to a powerful electric crescendo with a nice solo thrown in. It’s not something we haven’t heard before – in fact, it sounds like an attempt to rewrite November Rain without the piano – but it’s a good template to build from.
The problem is the lack of invention, especially in the bland lyrics, “The only cross you bear is lying on a cross around your neck” and “Why’s the sky blue/Don’t matter to you” chief among the offending lines at the start. The latter half, meanwhile, doesn’t venture far from “It matters to you” being shouted on repeat.
The theme of promise without delivery is one that is repeated throughout the album. L7 opens like an early Foo Fighters song being sung by James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers, before the key change completely sucks the life out of proceedings. “You don’t stop when you’re running a race” is the extremely pertinent line that follows.
Riding on a Wave sounds like a homage to Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive, while Wind in Your Head and Mirror Ball are just bland rock numbers with an occasional decent solo thrown in. Stuck on You is something similar with spacey keys, like something borrowed from Radiohead’s Subterranean Homesick Alien, thrown in.
Sucker Punch again has that Foo Fighters sound, but all the good work is destroyed when Aitken inexplicably hits the high notes singing “The devil’s in the detail”, immediately making farce of what has come before.
‘A Better Balance’ is not entirely a lost cause. Opener Tight Rope is the kind of powerhouse rock that they seem to want to make, while These are the Things is somewhat slower but no less effective. Killing Time (Light Fades to Grey) meanwhile is the sole example of a song’s fortunes changing for the good at the key change; a bland opening is redeemed.
Overall, the album doesn’t punch like you hope it would. Rather than a balls-to-wall brain-melter, it’s an inartistic picture of balls drawn on a wall done by a student bored down the back of his geography class. It’s a bland reproduction of what Raising Jupiter surely hoped to create. It’s certainly more “powerhouse” than powerhouse.