Melodic Rock and Glam Roundup: Niva + Hollywood Burnout + Sergeant Steel + White Pigeon + Cruzh

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Reviews by Brian McGowan

Every genre has a whole host of bands circling on the periphery, trying to make the breakthrough, even a resurgent one, like Melodic Rock. Here are five more for your perusal:

  • Niva – Magnitude
  • Hollywood Burnout – Kick It Up A Notch
  • Sergeant Steel – Men on a Mission
  • White Pigeon – Property Of
  • Cruzh – Hard To Get

Niva – Magnitude

AOR Heaven

It would be easy to write off this album after a cursory listen…another wannabe eighties’ rock band have thumbed their way through a dog eared copy of the melodic rock blueprint, and come up with a dozen or so songs. Or so you might think. Repeated listening gradually reveals the distinct shapes of individual songs. Deceptive in their simplicity, with real choruses, middle eights and sharp hooks, Niva aren’t breaking new ground, but they’re joining the dots with a deft, skilful hand, filling the spaces with broad brushstrokes, employing all the major colours as they paint their (what used to be called) “radio-friendly anthems”. ‘Perfect Life’, spinning on an irritatingly familiar hook that bites deep, is probably the pick. The obligatory big ballad, ‘In A Misty Light’ strays satisfyingly into MOR territory, lingers for a while then returns for an awesome axe solo. Another standout, ‘Let It Shine’ will remind you of just how joyful good, guitar-based poprock can be.

Niva 20137.5 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Never Too Late
  2. Perfect Life
  3. My First And Only One
  4. Just Another Heartache
  5. In A Misty Light
  6. Always Somewhere
  7. Let It Shine
  8. Spanish Lullaby
  9. Do It Again
  10. Never Say Goodbye
  11. I Feel So Alone

 

Hollywood Burnouts – Kick It Up A Notch

Rock Road

Second album from this German Sleaze/Melodic Rock band, and it does exactly what it says in the title. The hard work and the touring since the début have paid off. The song-writing has improved beyond recognition. The result is a bunch of battle-hardened songs, road-tested in town after town by rock ’n roll’s equivalent of focus groups. Apart from lead guitarist Chrizzy’s obsession with Slash‘s guitar work, the band appear to have somewhat distanced themselves from the restrictive Glam/Hair Metal label. And with stage names like Nikki Sinn and Chrizzy Roxx that’s not an easy achievement. Much of the music here is rooted in seventies rock, percolated through the melodic rock years of the 1980s, and they can’t quite shake of the suspicion that a tribute band lurks behind the mask. ‘Satan’s City Shuffle’ and ‘Aint That A Bitch’, two of the album’s better cuts, owe a debt of gratitude to Cinderella, Aerosmith and Motley Crue. That said, elsewhere, with songs like ‘Excess All Areas’ and ‘We On The Night’, there is a sense that a unique band identity is being shaped and formed in a backroom somewhere. But there’s still a way to go. Album number three will be the key.

Hollywood Burnouts 20136 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Ghost
  2. Out Of Hell
  3. Satan’s City Shuffle
  4. Access All Areas
  5. Coming Home
  6. We Own The Night
  7. Ain’t That A Bitch
  8. The Mirror
  9. L.I.A.R.
  10. Sweet Soul Sister

Sergeant Steel – Men on a Mission

Boyztyme Records

This band’s claim to fame is the fact that the legendary Michael Wagener mixed and mastered this, their début album. There’s no original thinking going on, and it’s something of a mixed bag, clearly influenced by the Hair Metal/Bandana Rock scene of the eighties, although not apparently by any specific practitioner of the genre. A handful of reasonably strong tracks carry the album. The clumsily titled ‘Mama Horny’ displays lots of that phoney macho attitood for which the music was known and loved (and loathed). It‘s lowest common denominator hair metal, and could be any one of a dozen bands from the 80s, but in fairness, it’s really well done. It’s memorably melodic and the band show skill and bravado in pulling it off.

‘Sweet Sixteen’ and ‘Man On A Mission’ again have good tunes at their heart, and are delivered in that slightly camp, androgynous tone by which some British Glamrock bands of the seventies were known. As a tribute they work a treat, but winking, swaggering sleaze just isn’t enough now, and the songs – well written they might be – need much more of an edge and, more importantly, need to free themselves from conventional logic from time to time. Album standout ’Cry Your Heart Out’ does just that. By adding driving pomp keyboards to guitar strut, the points of reference collide in a satisfyingly dramatic manner, raising the heartbeat and staying on in our memory. More like this next time please.

Sergeant Steel - Men On A Mission6 out of 10

Track Listing: 

  1. Gods of Love
  2. Mama Horny
  3. Sweet 16
  4. Don’t Give It Up
  5. Man on a Mission
  6. Cry Out Your Heart, Baby!
  7. Born to Lose (Live to Win)
  8. Wannabe Outlaw
  9. Some Girls Are Ladies
  10. Taker of My Heart
  11. Give Me a Call

White Pigeon – Property Of

To be a successful satirist of the rock ‘n roll cliché, you have to be pretty damn good yourself. And when the joke wears thin, as it does here, the music has to carry the album. The band throw all the right shapes, the songs are all direct, accessible vehicles for Spinal Tap-like lyrical humour, but sound just a little too sanitised, too flat-pack assembly for current tastes in rock ’n roll… though ‘The Hunt’ and ‘Squash Song’ just about cast off the mould. Mainman, Chris Nugent (guitars and vocals) does not have a strong, distinctive voice, which makes his under-use of the band’s two female vocalists seem negligent. When they get the opportunity to shine, like on ’Ladies’ and ‘White Pigeon’, they light up the songs with a bright, glowing energy. Some dirt under the fingernails and repositioning of Natthalia and Natascha upfront would seem like the solution.

White Pigeon 20135 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Party
  2. Sea Devil
  3. The Hunt
  4. Kentucky Pie
  5. Rock Me
  6. Ladies
  7. Don’t Get Too Close (Squash Song)
  8. Get Me Outta Here
  9. Gladiator
  10. White Pigeon

Cruzh – Hard To Get

Promising Swedish trio Cruzh have released a 3-track, self-financed EP, and the title track is a peach. Firmly trapped in Eighties’ melodic rock aspic, the song survives juvenile lyrics and a very basic production job, thanks to a lively, imaginative arrangement, outstanding vocal harmonies, and a heart-stopping hook. The balladic ‘Stay’ and ‘In A Blink Of An Eye’ are a confident, assured approximation of Elton John and Kevin Cronin coming face-to-face with Martin Page in the Backstreet Boys’ backyard (Ed: Pardon? Tell me that’s not a euphemism, please!). Hyperbole perhaps, but only a little… this trio really do have their eyes on the prize. The EP may lack the production values of major label releases, but should provide a fast-track ticket to wider recognition.

Cruzh 20138 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Hard To Get
  2. Blink Of An Eye
  3. Stay