Sound — 7
Okay, before I kick-off this review, which will be a long 'un, lets get some of our shit straight. Lynryd Skynryd's most recent album, God & Guns, was released on 29th September 2009. The "new Skynryd" line up comprised of... Johnny Van Zant - Vox Gary Rossington guitars Rickey Medlocke guitars, backing vocals Mark Matejka guitars, backing vocals Ean Evans bass, backing vocals Robert Kearns bass, backing vocals Michael Cartellone drums Billy Powell keyboards Peter Keys keyboards And a few guest appearances including Rob Zombie, and John 5. The album reached No. 9 on the Billboard of Alternative Albums, and 18th on The Billboard 200, and two singles released prior to the main album were Still Unbroken and Simple Life, both of which enjoyed moderate success. Okay now we know what we're dealing with, I'll get going. (please note, this review is totally my personal opinion, and likely relates to my demographic and therefore my clash with your opinion, all feedback and viewpoints are welcome) I received this album for Christmas '09 and naturally, excited as I was immediately stuck it on, and had my first taste of new Skynryd material since god knows when. First thing to mention is this album takes on a different style to Skynryd's old stuff, I hadn't heard Still Unbroken before now and it gives an accurate kick-off to the albums predominant style - heavy rock with some country, blues and rock n' roll thrown in. And I liked this. Although it differs from standard Skynryd, it was refreshing to hear something new from a favourite band of mine. Die hard classical fans will likely find it difficult to get over the change, but we must remember that times DO change, and artists change. I was, quite frankly, glad that Skynryd had changed and not just churned out bad rip-offs of the songs from the 70's. Another notable change is the manner in which this album has been produced, it has clearly been mixed to shit and back, and as a result much of the good ol' Skynryd feel is gone, but enough remains to keep the new and old bands united under a banner other than merely sharing the name. So, first impressions, good, and as I continued through the album, they stayed pretty much the same, with the exception of a few track which really pissed me off, but I'll get to those in a bit, however first I'd like to point out the biggest flaw in this album. In my opinion the pitfall this album falls into, which so many other do also, is there is no defined style. It is not rock, blues, country or metal, it is a crazy amalgamation of them all. Now I believe that an album should really try to target one demographic, and that way it is guaranteed to be bought by at least one type of person. However by trying to incorporate all styles, it doesn't appeal to anyone in particular, to illustrate this point I have picked a hugely successful album, Appetite For Destruction by GNR. This album did a fantastic job of hitting one demographic, the soft rock and punky L.A scene, and it did this so well, that other people heard it, then liked it, and so it branches out into many different types of people liking it. This is also completely applicable to the early Skynryd albums, but when you shove as many genres into an album in order to make almost everyone want it, it just fails, because no-one can relate to the whole album, but I may have stayed on this point for too long, it just hit me that the writers didn't know that by each writing two songs, in different styles gives the album a fractured and disorganised feel. So now my hard rocking amigos we are on too the lyrics section, and i will also speak about the music too, I don't have school tomorrow, and I am enjoying myself. p.s. I'd really like to give this a 7.5, but it wont let me so... hey!
Lyrics — 8
So, as I have said before there is some shit in this album which really bugs me, so I this section may be fairly long, but never fear! I'll break it down track by track and make it nice and simple. First, a list of all the tracks: "Still Unbroken" - 5:06 "Simple Life" - 3:17 "Little Thing Called You" - 3:58 "Southern Ways" - 3:48 "Skynyrd Nation" - 3:52 "Unwrite that Song" - 3:50 "Floyd" (feat. Rob Zombie) - 4:03 "That Ain't My America" - 3:44 "Comin' Back For More" - 3:28 "God & Guns" - 5:44 "Storm" - 3:15 "Gifted Hands" - 5:22 Now, I have already spoken a little about Still Unbroken so I'll make this quick. As I have stated previously it is a nice, punchy opening which sets the albums tone nicely, the lyrics speak in first person of a man who appears to have gone through some shit in his life, but is "Still Unbroken". It talks of him riding across America on a motorcycle, and basically saying he's happy with what he's got. I actually really like this song's lyrics, it has a cheesy layout, and you can guess the line following the one Van Zant has just sung, but yehno, you've got to love the cheese. It's catchy, got a nice chorus and an okay riff throughout, and comes off as a polished, and nicely written piece of music. Rating - 9/10 Now, follows one of the songs which really pisses me off, Simple Life. I have just said "you've got to love the cheese" but if you had more than 5,000 tons of cheese down your throat, it is going to f--king piss you off. One of the worst things about this song is the cheesy, shitty guitar riff which both kicks off and ends the song, the lyrics are dull and repetitive. But the crowing turd in this songs production is the message behind it, it is essentially the same song as 'Still Unbroken" but the other way round. If you don't get what I mean I'll explain slowly, pin back your ears and concentrate dumb-ass this is a complex point. As i said before Still Unbroken is basically of a guy who has gone through some tough shit, but is happy with his rough and tumble life. Now, Simple Life is pretty much the same, a song in first person, yet this time he is bitching about how sweet things used to be so much better, he even says "I've been around the world, Seen all there is to see I'd trade ALL those memories for ONE MORE DAY how it used to be" excuse me but haven't you just said how much you love your mental life, now you would swap away half your life for a day in a Simple Life? Make your f--king mind up! Now please don't get me wrong, I understand that there is no rulebook on how songs should be written, and all songs are is a form of expression, but come on, a little consistency wouldn't be a ridiculous would it? Also, not to be bias I did think this was a nice nod in the general direction of the country influence which shapes much of Skynryd's sound, but again this leads in to the multi-genre thing again, and so may be doing the album a disservice. And the song was multi-layered and presented in an interesting way, so hey, its not all bad. Rating 5.5/10 Next, we hit a favourite of mine, Little Thing Called You, it's similar in style to Still Unbroken, and consequently I have very little to say about it, well sung, well written, well played, and has a real mind-f--kingly catchy chorus. Maybe could have done with a little more diversity throughout the piece, as it is very formulaic in the way it is set out, and the solo is very cheesy, etc. (It was also great to here some slide guitar in there too, back from classic Skynryd) Rating 9/10 Southern Ways, take Simple Life, and replace the good old life with, good old state I came from. Also, a tad too similar to Sweet Home Alabama for my liking, and again, too much like bitching about where you are for my liking, though not quite as bad as the bitching in Simple Life, also nice to have a piano solo as well. Rating - 6.5 Now... Skynryd Nation, I really don't like this song, because it just... crap. A weak riff, a very poor backing vocal track, and an average chorus. Although, I think this song would be a lot better live. Okay, it's not crap, it's just totally average. In every way. My least favourite song on here, in terms of music, not lyrics as the words are actually quite good (well in the chorus at least). Not got much else to say really, just nothing really to it. Rating 4/10 Okay, next we hit another good song, Unwrite That Song. I really like this song for a few reasons so it'll take me a while to go through it all, but first and foremost it really feels like a ballad, it's very effective at conveying the message. It has been pointed out to me many times by other reviewers that it sounds like Bruce Springsteen, which I believe is true, yet I think Bruce would have done a little better with the lyrics, which are what really lets this song down. So, aside from the Bruce factor, which i'll talk about in a bit, this song really is superb, it has a nice, catchy riff and hook and comes off like a strong song. It just sounds like a hit, it is well produced and well written. Particularly the riff, which is harmonised throughout with the major 3rds, which is an obvious but effective trick to make something sound huge, as is the use of excessive reverb on everything. But dispite the over production, a very good piece. Just briefly, on the note of Bruce, has anyone considered that is meant to mimic one of his songs, maybe it is a tribute, and that is the song that the lyrics speak of. The worst thing about this piece is the lyrics, I mean, a song about bitching about how you could have done a better job than someone else with some lyrics? Well, to each is own I suppose. HALFWAY POINT!!! Okay, now we hit the second half of the album, the better half in my opinion, and it starts with my favourite song on the album, Floyd. I love this song because it is so different, it takes a while to get used too, but its diversity sets it apart very well from the rest of the album. Rob Zombie does a brilliant job on the Vox, and the bluesy riff really captures the feel of the place the lyrics talk of. I think that the very best thing about it is the lyrics really fit the song. And it's very rare for a song to do that. I also think the song very accurately captures the imagination of the listener, and makes you want to get up and do a crazy head-banging bluesy dance. In fact now I think about it, this is the only song which I really think successfully hits a few genres. An excellent job, I don't know who wrote this, but it really is fantastic.The only thing which brings this song down is, once again, over production. Let the raw power of Skynryd out for a change, but, I suppose it just goes back to trying to please the maximum audience, as there are a great many people who would hate a really raw song. Just a thought. Rating - 9.5/10 Now, we are into That Ain't My America, once again the lyrics are bitching about something, this time about unpatriotic people, who are clearly total wankers for wanting to change America in any way at all. Despite the unbelievably forced message, i really respect that Van Zant is trying to get across a point through song, although in a less bitchy way would be nice. It's the Simple Life factor again my friends, he wants things to be like they used to be. 'Cos it Ain't his American no more, and he don't like it, so it's f--king shit. End of argument. Hmmm, not sure I agree, but I could let that slide, until we hit the huge problem in the album, coming very soon. I'd like to stay again, I don't hate this song, it has good guitar, good Vox, it is just the lyrics are a tad on the bitchy side... again. Rating - 8.5 Next, Coming back for more, just read what I said for Still Unbroken and Little Thing I call You, as they are very similar, by this time I was getting bored with the similarities between the songs, so I'll keep it quick, it's a standard (boring) layout, good, chunky riffs, catchy chorus, over produced, nice solo etc. you know the drill by now. Okay, if you have really followed me through this whole review, you'll have a good idea of what pisses me off, and so may have an idea what I have to say about this song, and I am going to pick this to f--king pieces to get my point across, because it f--king angers me, thats right my lovelies it's God & Guns. Right, to start lets look at the lyrics, because that is what a hate about it, then i'll tell you why else it really pisses me off. So it starts fine, about a politician who he disagrees with, a little bit bitchy (again, how about some pro-life stuff, or something you like?) but we've got used to all the bitching going on in this album, so it's all fine. Next lines are "I don't know how he grew up, But it sure wasn't down at the hunting club" firstly Donnie Van Zant wasn't raised around a hunting club either, secondly, and most importantly, I total oppose the hunting of animals, so by verse 2 I'm pissed that he is saying the hunting club is good, as I cannot see the good in killing (but I digress, I'm english and we all love animals, this is not a place for me to be bias). So i'm already pissed, then comes the one which really f--king got me fired up "Cause if it was he'd understand just a little bit more about the working man" Okay, how the f--k are you a working man? You are a f--king rich bastard, what do you know about the 'working man' nowadays, if you haven't been one for the past 30 years? Also, this negatively stereotypes the lower classes, implying they all are religious, trigger happy rednecks. Next "God and guns. Keep us strong" How does a gun keep you strong? I can sort of see where your coming from, with the whole God thing, but guns? Guns kill be people dude, and if you need that power to feel strong you have serious confidence issues. "That's what this country was founded on" A good point, we often forget America was formed in the name of God by slaughtering millions of peaceful people, and they certainly couldn't have killed them so quickly without guns, plus guns make loud noises, which is really cool. I could go through the whole song, but you get the idea, now the second biggest problem I have with this song, is that is really good. It has great guitar, great singing, an original structure (HORAY!!) a nice build up to the end, a great solo, and drive. It also has fantastic beat to it, it stays in your head without being too cheesy, it's, the best musical song on the album. Which f--king sucks. So, the lyrics and my principles mean I can't enjoy the would-be best song on the album, damn. Still, I am not bias, so i'll rate it fairly, based on everything. 9/10 (sigh) Now, as I have the Premo-english version of this album, I cannot make a statement about the last two songs, but I have probably done enough writing anyway. Please make your way to the final section for my conclusion.
Overall Impression — 8
Look, I've said all I can about this album, but in the end it's your choice, I would recommend buying it, as it is very good. What lets it down is it's bitchy tone throughout the lyrics, and the repetitiveness of tracks, as well as its over production. All in all I'll give it an 8/10, and I haven't actually mentioned one thing at all yet, which is the talent that these musicians have. They are all fantastic, weather you like it or not one has to admire the skill of the new Lynryd Skynryd, sure they'll never be the old Skynryd but at least we have something to listen too on long journeys, and something to review on nights when you should be out but have a broken leg. This is Will from England, Hope you found this review useful.