Roll The Dice
Gerard Way Jr, on march 21, 2013 4 of 5 people found this review helpful
Sound: After a fun, if not creative, California punk-inspired debut with "From The Attic", Damone slammed the power pop genre with 2006's "Out Here All Night". Though littered with the odd moment of clarity, the record was, in essence, a cover album. The band borrowed heavily from giants of the genre – among them Bon Jovi and Poison. Lead vocalist/guitarist Noelle LeBlanc acts as a scapegoat for the band, which seems to keep releasing b-sides from older bands with female vocals. Honoring the pattern, 2008 saw "Roll The Dice", a valiant but uninspired effort to clean up and recover from sophomore slump.
The biggest difference between "Out Here All Night" and "Roll The Dice" is neither composition nor style – the same old power pop/hard rock influences are found in nearly every track – but the bands from which the group borrows. Hints of Van Halen are in the title track and the Guns N' Roses bastard child "Talk Of The Town"; Motley Crue appear for moments on "Serial Killer", also featuring an awkward talking portion circa "Outta My Way"; "Bored To Death" recalls White Zombie; other rip-offs include ZZ Top and Motorhead. Not only do we have other bands to give us sounds like this, but they do it a hundred times better in their very worst tracks.
Don't like standard power pop? Maybe you'd prefer glam somewhere along the lines of Chicago or Boston. No worries; Damone rips those off too. Every track between "Obvious Things" and – believe it or not – the actual cover with "You Could Be Mine" is as cheesy as anything else on 80s airwaves. "Talk Of The Town" is one of the biggest offenders, also including another talking portion and a sudden swap of lead vocals – which continues in "Don't Miss It". It seems the entire band takes a swipe at vocals in this release. LeBlanc returns for "Better Than You Let On", which I admittedly didn't even recall until looking over the tracklist – this being from an album I've heard a good dozen or so times.
"You Could Be Mine" is, of course, a Guns N' Roses cover (the band covered Iron Maiden on the last release), and the worst news I could possibly give you about it is that it truly is the strongest track on the album, with the possible exception of closer "When It Ends". Even more distressing is that this version isn't distinguishable from the rest of the record for all the wrong reasons. Where other bands might implement their own style into a cover, Damone, already being well-acquainted with the genre by now, essentially copies the original beat-for-beat. Because "Roll The Dice" already sounds like a Guns N' Roses cover album, it doesn't stick out. This is exactly the problem with every other track on the record – none of them stand out because they borrow every riff, every solo, and every production element from other groups.
Thankfully, "Conquer Me" attempts to throw a few new tricks into the ring with – instead of 80s glam – 80s pop. You'll find the same thing in a Cyndi Lauper record, and it comes far too late in the record to redeem the rest, but at the very least, it's an attempt. "When It Ends" is a strong closer, especially after "Out Here All Night" had two tracks after the closing "When You Live". "Roll The Dice" doesn't make this mistake – "You Could Be Mine" is the last big number, "Conquer Me" slows things down, and "When It Ends" brings things to a smooth ending. If only the rest of the ride had been this pleasant. // 4
Lyrics and Singing: Where "When It Ends" is a nice musical closer, it certainly stumbles – as does the rest of the record – in the lyrical department. "Yeah, so I could've done better/Tell the rest to the man on the leather couch" and other bumbles are all across this otherwise grand closer – and with a few moments ("If I had to spell it out for you/I'd write it down in my blood") are strong in concept, but ultimately fall apart in delivery. The rest of the record alternates similarly between weak and mediocre.
As mentioned earlier, a bit of vocal variation peppers "Roll The Dice", though, if anything, only serves to highlight the similarities between Damone and their influences - especially when "You Could Be Mine" reminds you of how little Damone needs a male lead. "Talk Of The Town" is somewhere between "Feel Your Love Tonight" and "Panama", while "Don't Miss It" is Sum 41 meets Blue Oyster Cult. Neither add much to the record, which, by this point, is already a casualty of its own design – not to mention that bassist Vasquez (vocalist for "Don't Miss It") is terrible and Mike Woods sounds like a less exciting Axl Rose infused with a softer David Lee Roth. Keep LeBlanc in the front seat and we'll all be happy; she has enough character and power to drive the genre. However, even with her at the reins, Damone distributes lyrical/musical prowess evenly – both are pretty disappointing. // 4
Impression: "Roll The Dice" sees a Damone surrendering to their desire to be its heroes – while there is the occasional thrill ("Serial Killer", "You Could Be Mine"), very little is left to enjoy on the part of the listener. The record frequently feels dishonest – even clammy. It barely climbs over the wreckage that was "Out Here All Night", and even that record had slightly more personality. As of 2008, the band's strongest release may well be their summer love "From The Attic", which acts as little more than a car wash soundtrack. Similarly, Damone has failed for three releases to become anything more than a feeble cover band with a once-in-a-while thrill, usually either unintentional or completely from left field.