Friday, November 23, 2012

RICK SPRINGFIELD "Songs For The End Of The World"

(c) 2012 Universal Music

  1. Wide Awake
  2. Our Ship's Sinking
  3. I Hate Myself
  4. You & Me
  5. Gabriel
  6. A Sign Of Life
  7. My Last Heartbreak
  8. Joshua
  9. Love Screws Me Up
  10. I Found You
  11. Depravity
  12. One Way Street

Rick Springfield--Lead Vocals, Guitars
George Bernhardt--Guitars
Matt Bissonette--Bass, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Rodger Carter--Drums

Every now and then, a CD shows up in my mailbox that is just completely out of left field, or at least seemingly so.  I get everything from the deepest, darkest death metal to some stuff that I'm not entirely sure is even music.  So, when Rick Springfield's latest CD showed up a few weeks back, I wasn't necessarily surprised, but I wasn't really expecting much out of it, either.  Hey, I'm not gonna deny that Springfield was one of my guilty pop-rock pleasures of the 80's, as he had just enough guitar edge to his rocking stuff to satisfy my hard rock ear...and just enough pop to interest the girls that I was interested in!  Seriously, if most people here are honest with themselves (and I'm not asking you to say it out loud, just don't lie to yourself...), we've all cranked "Jessie's Girl", "Love Somebody", "Everything For You", and possibly "Celebrate Youth" more than a few times.  That being said, I had pretty much written the guy off since I had last heard him on his 2004 album Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance as it just didn't do anything for me and he came across as an angry, bitter mid-50's rocker (he was 55 at the time) that was trying to sound relevant.  And to be completely candid, I expected the same thing here.
On Songs For The End Of The World, the listener finds Springfield not turning his back on his power pop past (say that five times fast!), but instead embracing it and then pulling it forward.  Every rocker here sounds like something Springfield could have done in the 80's but with more modern production, harder edged guitars (at least in places), and a bit of a modern rock sneer mixed in with numerous arena-rock anthems and a smattering of ballads.  In places this album reminds me a lot of the latest efforts from Night Ranger and Journey as far as the melodic approach and how "hard" the album is, but the lyrical content tends to be much darker, more introspective, and not at all tied to the 80's attitude that so many retro acts seem to be desperately holding onto.

Take for example the opening track on this album, "Wide Awake".  A tight drumroll and a fuzzed-up modern guitar lick start the track off, and the verse lyrics are spit out in a snarling, almost angry style before colliding with a very poppish, sing-along chorus, with Springfield seeking "what it is to be a kid again".  The follow-up track, "Our Ship's Sinking" has a big hook from the outset, a bit of a modern radio rock approach to the guitar tones, and a huge, bright sound with a positive attitude to the lyrics that belies the song's title.  The album's lead single, "I Hate Myself", has a much more retro-rock approach to it, especially in the guitar tone, but the attitude is youthful and powerfully delivered, the guitar hook is fresh, and the song is not dated or tired sounding at all.  "A Sign Of Life" is another song that sounds like it could have been taken from a mid-80's writing session but then given new life with some beefed up production and just a hint of modern guitar tuning, producing a strong mid-tempo rocker that will likely keep the listener's head nodding and toes tapping.  "My Last Heartbeat" is another aggressive rocker with some interesting effects and some of Springfield's angriest vocals on the disc. 

Never forgetting where he came from, yet refusing to be contained by the past, Springfield moves effortlessly from a track like "Love Screws Me Up", which finds Springfield dropping the F*BOMB of all things (gasp!) in a cool, jangly number that has a definite retro feel, then moving on to the much darker sounding "I Found You" which carries a far more modern vibe musically and production-wise. 

Every song here checks in at under four minutes long, so Springfield knows how to keep things short and to the point, which I think is to his benefit, as the songs don't come across as bloated or pompous at all.  Instead, a strong focus on melody, catchy hooks, and interesting-if-not-complicated rhythms keep the album moving along nicely, even on the slower moments such as the fantastic "Gabriel" or the previously mentioned "I Found You". 

This is not the Rick Springfield that those of us who survived the 80's are likely to recall when his name is mentioned.  Rather than imploring us to "Love Somebody", Springfield now tells us that "Love Screws Me Up", and instead of "Jessie's Girl" we get "Joshua", but that's okay.  Springfield has expanded his musical voice, expressing angst and aggression and frustration that would never have found their way into his hits of 25 or 30 years ago.  While his voice doesn't sound like it has aged at all, there is no way the Springfield of old would have even considered approaching an edgy track like "Depravity", with it's screeching guitar and plaintive lyrcs. 

It's too bad that Top 40 radio is going to ignore this effort, and modern rock radio doesn't have the guts to play music from a 63 year-old heartthrob from the 80's because, all in all, this is one of the best releases of 2012, regardless of genre.  Chock full of hooks and harmonies, Songs For The End Of The World is the biggest surprise of the year for me so far, and we're running out of time for that to change since it is November already.

The packaging is top notch, complete with credits and lyrics, which frequent readers will know is always a plus for me.  Additionally, this is a digitally enhanced CD, so there is a lot of bonus material that can be accessed with your computer, which is always cool. There are also supposed to be four different versions of the cover art floating around, although I have only seen two; I am not sure if the variant covers mean certain discs have bonus tracks, or if some covers are in more limited quantities than others and, thus, more collectible.

Metalheads will want to avoid this disc at all costs (as if I needed to tell you that), but for readers of this site that appreciate good, catchy, melodic rock that hits hard at times and also knows when to back off a bit, I would imagine that Songs For The End Of The World is going to be something that you will find yourself returning to again and again. 

Rating:  I am as shocked as anyone, but I would say crank this to a surprising 8.5...but you have to be willing to be open-minded and not just write this off as soon as you see it's Springfield!

1 comment:

  1. Nice review! Thanks! And yes two of the different CD cover/versions have different bonus tracks - the Cold War version has "The Bug" and the Tarot version has "Let Me In", "Jet" (live), "Lust" and "Her Body Makes Vows" and each of the 4 contains bonus digital content (videos, pictures, additional songs. If this link works it will show you the versions and what they contain -

    And BTW, "Shock, Denial, Anger, Acceptance" is actually most of his die hard (female) fans favorite CD - funny huh? It is an angry CD but Rick writes from what he's experiencing in life and those songs are about what he was going through while in Vegas doing the EFX Alive show. So not really *trying* to sound relevant, just writing honestly as always. =)