Few acts can do feelgood, anthemic blue collar rock ‘n’ roll with the aplomb of Bon Jovi. You can slag them off all you like but it’s impossible to truly dislike their catchy, inoffensive pop-rock.
Listening to Bon Jovi albums in the rain is kind of like driving a Formula One car through Dublin city centre on a Friday evening: it’s very hard to see the point. To fully appreciate the one-time poodle rockers in all their pomp, you really need the sun to be beating down with impunity: only then can it all make sense. For some reason, a damp, grey morning just seems to magnify every clunky couplet and jaded metaphor: it’s impossible to resist a snigger when our hero sings about calling that band of gypsies and going searching for our pot of gold (‘Whole Lot Of Leavin’).
That said, few acts can do feelgood, anthemic blue collar rock ‘n’ roll with the aplomb of Bon Jovi – aside from Springsteen, of course, but then Mr Bon Jovi has always modelled himself on The Boss. Whatever you think of him, JBJ is the proud possessor of a decent voice, which has gravelled nicely with age, and Richie Sambora can, eh, twiddle a g-string with the best of them.
The 13 songs here don’t deviate greatly from the formula that has served the New Jersey rockers so well since Slippery When Wet saw them explode into public consciousness back in the 1986. The fist-pumping, power-chord heavy opener ‘We Got It Going On’ does its job perfectly, while the syrupy torch ballad ‘(You Want To) Make A Memory’ and ‘Seat Next To You’ should shortly be opening teenage tear ducts from Baltinglass to Ballinafad. Bar-room blues rock? ‘I Love This Town’. Country-tinged whinge-athon? ‘Till We Ain’t Strangers Anymore’, a duet with Leann Rimes so saccharine it should carry a health warning.
The fact that Bon Jovi’s formulaic rawk has managed to remain popular 21 years later is a testament to the enduring power of the dumb-ass pop song – there’s little difference between blasting out the ‘Whoa-ho’s in ‘Living On A Prayer’ to the ‘Hey Hey’s of the title track here. You can slag them off all you like but it’s impossible to truly dislike their catchy, inoffensive pop-rock.
The perms may be gone and the gruaig shorn to shoulder-length, but listening to any Bon Jovi album is still one of life’s guilty pleasures, like taking a tasting tour of the world’s biggest cheese factory.
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