Sound — 7
Frontman Kip Winger played with Alice Cooper in the '80s, but soon left to start his own band Sahara, which then quickly after another name-change became Winger. They more or less became the last (or one of the last) big MTV-metal sensation before the grunge wave took root. After two successful records in '88 and '90 respectively, their third record in 93 didn't do too well on the market. Winger went on a break, and frontman Kip Winger started studying classical composition. It is then not very surprising that Winger is a name many would associate with sappy MTV-ballads and mainstream hair metal.
However, 13 years after the decline of Winger the band resurrected and a new series of records were released. We are now looking at the third of these (sixth in total) titled "Better Days Comin'," and today already feels better as we get a Winger record that hold this much improved quality over some of the previous releases.
The production can best be described as modern rock 'n' roll. The guitar, bass, drums, piano, synths and vocals can be all be heard. The bass even gets some time to do some solo slapping parts in the title track, which is a plus for the song. On the downside the acoustic guitars are as horribly brittle in the mix as they ever were in the '80s (listen to the end of "Out of This World" for an example of this). The lead vocals are often harsher and the backing vocals utilize a much softer palate on most songs. The bottom line is that all the instruments and vocals on this album are competently performed.
Lyrics — 5
Many of the lyrics are in one way or another related to sex. For example: "Late shift's over in this working town. She starts her motor when the sun goes down. She runs on sex and gasoline. She's a midnight driver of a love machine."
Even the lyrics that try to say something about love, breakups or not finding yourself are written with such broad strokes the lyrics could apply to almost anyone or anything. The thoughts or words never develop anything and they arrive exactly where they started. It does the job, but it's not better than that. The subject of rat race or tin soldier are so… done. Although the lyrics themselves aren't particularly bad the subjects don't try to shed any light on anything not already known or discussed by everyone, making them a bit boring.
Overall Impression — 7
Composition-wise this album houses several impressive songs. "Tin Soldier" is by far the best and most interesting arrangement I've ever heard in a Winger song. The song is in 5/4-measure, has some odd scales a la evil carnival going on and it even has a guitar solo part with a jazzy piano providing the backing. For a moment there I was even reminded of Freak Kitchen or maybe even the intro of "The Scorpion" by Megadeth.
There's however more to look forward to if you haven't heard this record yet. The catchy opener "Midnight Driver of a Love Machine," the heavy and almost a bit Jon Oliva-sounding "Storm in Me" and the faster "Rat Race" are all part of Winger's best material.
Then we have a couple of decent but not really great songs "Queen Babylon" and "So Long China." The album also has its' share of utterly bad songs as well. "Better Days Comin'" itself is an unaspiring party anthem with a chorus so lacking in shame it's beyond words. Catchy but horrible. "Ever Wonder" and "Be Who You Are, Now" risks to drag the album back to the realm of previously mentioned sappy MTV-ballads it so crying and screaming tries to crawl away from. The closer track "Out of This World" is a decent rock ballad with some cool guitar shredding. The song is however somewhat ruined by the brittleness of the acoustic guitars. The song reminds me of a few songs by Harem Scarem.
If the next Winger album plays on the strengths of this one and fills the gaps where there's room for improvement better days will indeed be coming!