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'Better Days Comin''
(Frontiers Records)
Release Date: April 18th 2014

Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke

Rockulus Maximus


I recall back in their early days how they became easy to ridicule and generally dismiss without much effort. Thankfully I wasn't part of that brigade as I felt they always had something of substance to offer; whether that was a ballad that worked well or a rocker that added fuel to my surroundings. Who for example could easily tear apart a band that created a track like 'Junkyard Dog'?

Here we are with their sixth studio album, and expectations have been raised since the 2009 album 'Karma' kicked some proverbial. Now to be fair to this album, it starts out with some decent rockin' moments until we reach 'Tin Soldier'. Things get mellow baby as 'Ever Wonder' sways in to earshot maintaining the laid back and chilled out vibes.

'Be Who You Are, Now' is another example that crops up later which has been infected by this strange tempo. They're not conventional ballads, and they're not foot-to-the-floor rockers either. As many times as I give these a spin, I cannot fathom what is trying to be achieved. They contain melody, a hook and are alright, but they feel like a band that is exhausted. I'm just not sure what to make of them.

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Let's move on to the positives of which there are plenty. The opening song has the right intention but is distracted with cliché and an out of date lyrical approach. 'Queen Babylon' is much better and so is the opening single 'Rat Race' which for all intents and porpoises gives those who haven't heard the entire album the wrong impression. When you witness the video for this single you get excited suspecting that a really driven album is on the way, but there is much more on offer than the riff-riddled melodious expectation.

The title track has a funky vibe which works and is refreshing. Kip Winger accompanied by his trusty side-kick Reb Beach, guitarist John Roth and drummer Rod Morgenstein all do the business on this album. 'So Long China' and 'Storm In Me' both showcase their united dynamics as they flex their muscles. The former has a softer edge with an obvious hook in the chorus which doesn't baffle or challenge, and the latter lumbering on chunky guitars.

I've always been partial to the heavier and melodic side of these guys but have found their ballads accessible and welcome too. Knowing how Kip Winger isn't stagnant and has embraced composing classical arrangements in a big way, like his impressive work on 'Ghosts' which was written for strings, the harp and piano back in 2009, I guess he wishes understandably to stretch the creative output of his band.

Nothing wrong with trying something new, and more often than not it can be a very healthy exercise in developing and evolving. Perhaps I'm being harsh with my critique, but even the final track 'Out Of This World' doesn't pack the punch I hoped it might. 'Karma' has the edge over this latest offering in my humble opinion, but I will say that this album will appeal to those who like the band's lighter output. All in all, 'Better Days Comin'' isn't a bad album, it just doesn't present a collection of songs building on the momentum of 'Karma'.

Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine
Queen Babylon
Rat Race
Better Days Comin'
Tin Soldier
Ever Wonder
So Long China
Storm In Me
Be Who You Are, Now
Out Of This World

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