Column from September 1st, 1998

Something that’s really beginning to interest me (or totally bug me!) is the way a number of recent releases (strangely all Japanese ones) show melodic rock bands trying to adapt their style to fit in with more widespread current tastes. Which is strange seeing as many, supposedly, in-the-know people say proper rock is about to make a big come-back….

Prime offender is the new album be Enuff z’Nuff, "Paraphernalia". It barely sounds like Chip and the boys at all. When it’s only currently released in Japan I can’t see why the band are diluting their sound to try and appeal more to the current US mainstream. There’s something very unwholesome about a band losing sight of its roots….

Another Japanese release that’s currently rather bugging me at the moment (though I’ll probably get flamed for it!) is Harem Scarem’s "Big Bang Theory". Seems like every time a new Harem album comes out it’s heralded by comments like "right back to the sound of the first two albums", and "proper follow-up to ‘Mood Swings’" – how can that be happening every time? Anyway, their album just sounds rather throwaway to me and doesn’t fulfil any of the giddy promises others have said it holds. And, another thing, I’m still waiting to hear a Harem Scarem album that’s really properly produced. I don’t know why the band insist on producing themselves – put in a more objective producer with a sharper focus and you might well get a melodic rock classic! Right now it seems like squandered potential….

The third Japanese release under my critical eye is the "Brass Monkeys" debut by the ex-FM-ers So. It’s a more enjoyable musical experience than Enuff, but only when it is at its best. Some of the other tracks are so obviously – "let’s try and reach a modern crossover audience" – that they sound hollow and totally unconvincing…. Sometimes, people have to stick to their guns and do what they believe in, not be totally malleable and shapeless!

Diatribe over I guess. On more positive news, fans of great guitar fusion should have some highlights to look forward early next year as Steve Morse has two new albums on the way. The first will be a completely solo acoustic guitar workout, while the second will be a full Steve Morse Band outing along the lines of the excellent "Stress Fess" and "Structural Damage". Morse Band bassist Dave LaRue is also working on a second solo album (check out his first, it’s excellent too).

Keep checking out the AOR Basement site at http://www.ifb.co.uk/~aorb/ - new reviews should be uploaded there this week….