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From Guarantee we get the next in line, Glorious Road, after a year (and then some). With the first three rocking albums in the heavier departments, Bow Wow heads in the opposite direction to switch it up. While not Guarantee Part II, this one’s a pretty optimistic rocker that has a lot in common with the original Britpop bands: incredibly happy choruses, power chord jives, a clean image, and production so lopsided it makes the past properly mixed albums weep. I’m not going to say that the band sold out because at the core the style is the same as what they’ve been doing since the debut, but I won’t deny that there’s a reason other than personal interest for softening up the music.
To start off, this is pretty sweet rock and roll from a band that knows how to kick ass. Yes, they do dumb down some of their skills for simple power chord jingles and pleasing love songs, but Kyoji and Mitsuhiro still lay down the leads when the time is right. The twisted morphing of the guitar by these two would lead to background tunes, but they’re at the front with the vocals and now-thin electric riffs (I say electric because distorted is too strong of a word in this case). Sano with his bass is at his highest audibility, with his rumbles relaxing the listener while getting them engrossed in the atmosphere. His playing adds to the fun factor and settles me right into the groove with the rest of the guys.”Hoshii No Wa Omae Dake” is one of the songs with addicting bass lines that leave me at the mercy of the incredibly inoffensive sing-a-long chorus that sounds nothing like Bow Wow…
“Oh baby! Oh baby! I’m gonna looove you tonight!”
Oh dear god, I know lyrics haven’t been the band’s strong point, but give me a break. These may not look that bad on paper, but the execution is just laughable. Yamamoto alone has decent low-end cleans and he doesn’t often use high-pitched wails. In fact, he doesn’t even sound Japanese unless he speaks English, and with this one you’re getting the worst of both worlds. He isn’t bad, but here with the backing high vocals, it’s just not something I can let go without butchering.
The synthesizer and keyboard usage introduced on the last album finds a purpose here, too, and thankfully it’s kept to a minimum once more. The first song where it’s really noticeable is “Search Light,” and to me this is one of the better songs on the album. Yamamoto goes right back to his usual infectious vocals with the leads and synths backing him in a doomy fashion. The bass bobs thickly with the guitars zapping each other, and the running synth in the back reminds me of Ronnie James Dio’s “Rainbow In The Dark” – it isn’t very similar, but I just get that song in my head. The guitar solos are wonders on this song, as they are with the rest of the album – harmonious, emotional, and interwoven with shred and neo-classic elements.
The next song, though, throws it all way by trying to go aggressive with some rough vocals and a bubbling rhythm. With this rhythm and the riff that paves it, I get the words “Rubber Ducky” in my head and I end up saying them with syllable breaks as the song progresses.
“Rub-ber-duck-y, rub-ber-duck-y, rub-ber-duck-y, rub-ber-duck-y…”
It’s an addicting yet simplistic rhythm, but those vocals… I don’t even think it’s Yamamoto because they’re rougher / raspier and they don’t have the same distinct accent. It’s still low cleans, but by the time I even care I start not to care because the song ends with some sweet Judas Priest inspired leads (think Stained Class).
For an album that’s just over thirty years old, it certainly has aged well. Much of the same formula that’s involved with typical pop rock today are here, but that’s mainly because of the power chords, I guess. It’s hard to hate this album not because of the simplicity, but because Bow Wow make it work and add their own little spice to the dish. There’s a lot of Beatles influence, obviously, but when I hear songs like “Ai No Kusari” with the kitchen tool percussions, the solo that would beat Eddie Van Halen in a race, and the spacey bubbling synth, I can’t help but love it.
As a lighter album than the previous works, this one does get remarkably dark. “Sky Diver” has a bridge that would fit right into a futuristic nightmare based off of the pessimistic synth, and some of the other mentioned songs wouldn’t make you feel so safe all alone, either. However, the optimistic sections outnumber these moments and the drums will make you forget about it. While pretty catchy as it attempting some funky beats and all, the snares on the kit doesn’t contribute; instead it sounds weak and docile. The production overall is a step down from Guarantee in that instruments aren’t as clear, there’s this everlasting light fuzz, and the drums suck. Niimi is a monster on the kit when he needs to be, but the drum bass is a pillow, the snares are plastic, and yeah that’s about it.
For one last kicker, we get the title track (don’t worry about the final track), which is an instrumental assassin that’ll shoot you into space without a whimper. It’s a soft-hearted epic mixed with disco / funk, classical and shred solos, a sweet acoustic / electric break, and a hopeful tone as opposed to the cheerful one that plagues the album. Acoustics do show up more often on this album that the previous ones, so that’s one expansion trick you can knock off the list.
So I do generally like this album, even though it isn’t my kind of hard / rock. Certainly isn’t heavy metal like the first three albums, and something tells me Bow Wow will go for another one of these softies before they turn into Vow Wow. Then again, I don’t know yet, because I like to be surprised, and I’d like nothing more than to be proven wrong; helps that the band’s material isn’t widely available. So if you want to try this out, go ahead, especially if you dig hard rock or softer rock in general.