Buckcherry – Warpaint
Release Date: 8th March, 2019
Josh Todd // Vocals
Stevie D. // Guitars/Backing vocals
Kelly LeMieux // Bass
Kevin Roentgen // Guitars/Backing vocals
Francis Ruiz // Drums
Buckcherry has been one of my favourite bands since their self titled debut back in 1999. ‘Lit Up’ was exactly what I was looking for musically as it was a return to that dangerous, raw sound that first excited me about Guns ‘N Roses back in 1986. The band’s attitude, swagger, raw, and gritty sound just captivated me. 2001’s Timebomb was a less gritty outing which admittedly did alienate some fans, but for me, it was a natural progression and is still home to some of my favourite Buckcherry songs. It was a more polished, commercial outing, but that was fine with me, it still had great songs.
A three-year hiatus from 2002-2005, a near formation of a supergroup with Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum tentatively named Cherry Roses (which went on to become Velvet Revolver) and significant lineup changes have all been a part of the band’s ability to reinvent itself. 2005 saw the bands return with the incredible 15. This marked a new chapter in the book of Buckcherry and again I was reminded of what initially drew me to the band, and again what I had been missing.
Up until Warpaint it had been a mostly love relationship with the band again Black Butterfly and Confessions were both stellar records in my eyes and still get played on heavy rotation alongside the debut and Timebomb. Warpaint is the bands’ eighth album and also marks twenty years since their debut. With this album, the band opens yet another chapter in the Buckcherry story. It sees the formation and development of new songwriting partnerships within the band. Buckcherry is back again with a new line up, a bigger fire in their bellies and delivers their most diverse album yet.
I wanted to love this record on first listen as I had done with almost every other release. The two tracks that had been released prior to receiving the advance of Warpaint were the band’s cover of the iconic Nine Inch Nails track ‘Head like a Hole’ and the first original track from the album, the single ‘Bent’. While I enjoyed both, neither were instantly classic Buckcherry to my ears.
Fast forward to the day the advance arrives in my mailbox, I open it instantly like a child ripping into his most wanted toy on Christmas Day. My initial reaction was one that had me puzzled and dumbfounded as I could not find anything that stimulated my senses. With each track, I hoped that the next one was something to hang onto, something that evoked that same feeling ‘Lit Up’ did twenty years ago.
Had I put too much weight on one of my favourite bands and expected them to deliver another time stamp in my life ….. Absolutely!! Had I set my expectations too high? You bet I did!!!
This is the first Buckcherry album I have had the opportunity to dissect with the written word. I desperately wanted to give the album a glowing review, but the first half a dozen listens left me speechless and disappointed.
Warpaint presented itself to be a really disjointed effort, stylistically there were the songs that were far too familiar and had been done better by others, songs that seemed obviously written for “commercial” appeal and songs that were just too far removed from the Buckcherry that I knew and loved.
Where was that signature song that just jumped out at me?
Where was that first captivating glance that would lead to intrigue and ultimately love?
It just wasn’t there ….. I mean it was OK … just.
Determined to enjoy this record I switched off the critical side of me and approached the album again, playing it as something that was in the background while I worked and ensured it wasn’t the center of my attention hoping that something would stick. Before long I found myself humming melodies and guitar solos to myself, at last, there was a glimmer of hope for this album.
It’s funny how you get presented these little opportunities, I had been asked if I wanted to interview Josh Todd, and the answer was an obvious YES. But here comes the dilemma; how do I interview the frontman of a band that I am a huge fan of and pretend that the new album is amazing? How do I talk to him about something that he is passionate about and proud of when I really don’t like it?
You will all have to stay tuned and check out my interview with Josh coming soon, but I do have to say that Josh managed to change how I perceived the album and gave me a better understanding of what they set out to do on Warpaint. I heard it differently from that point on.
Let’s check out the album track by track.
‘Warpaint’ kicks off the album, it is a loud obnoxious, in your face AC/DC style of riff that launches into Josh Todd’s raw, rough and ready vocal delivery. The chorus has a nice little hook to it and is a nice little way to warm you up this version of Buckcherry. I am sure that this song will get picked up by a sporting station and used heavily in highlights reels. For me, the riff was a little too obvious attempting to be AC/DC for my liking and put me on the back foot instantly. ‘Right Now’ follows up with an acoustic guitar and drum groove. The hints of slide guitar sit nicely and work really well. The chorus sees the song do a complete 180 and transforms the song into an angst fuelled stomping chorus. The solo is short and really sweet, Stevie D owns it. This is the creeper on the album.
‘Head like a Hole’ is next and I am sure will be a discussion point for many. Love it or hate it, it is a really brave move. For me, the plus is that Buckcherry has put their personal stamp on it and while still keeping it faithful to the original. It is as good as the original? I will let you be the judge of that. When I first read the title for ‘Radio Song’ I must admit I threw up in my mouth a little as I knew exactly what this was going to be; a ballad. The clichéd opening line and chorus had me reaching for the skip button initially, but I must admit it will be a huge hit if taken to radio. It has hit written all over it. ‘The Vacuum’ is a classic Buckcherry song that would not have been out of place on Confessions. For me it was the first song I found trapped in my head, it’s a personal stand out track for me. ‘Bent’ is one of those songs that has all the offerings of classic Buckcherry. It has swagger, groove, aggression, and melody. Would I have picked it as a leading single? Probably not, but I can also see why it was. Great song and well executed, but so very familiar, a bit like a comfy pair of track pants it serves its purpose as a reference point reminding you that it is Buckcherry you are listening to.
The dirty riff and soulful female harmonies that open proceedings on ‘Back Down’ adds a refreshing new flavor for Buckcherry. It is a great little tune that is removed from the typical as it works really well; it reminds me of Little Caesar’s version of ‘Chain of Fools’. It has something very special about it and taken to radio it has the potential to blow up. It is probably the biggest grower on the record for me, love it. ‘The Alarm’ continues the soulful female harmonies/vocal parts. It’s a simple riff driven song about partying and the weekend. A tad too clichéd for me and doesn’t really gain any momentum, if anything it is a bit of a clunker. Great idea, but the execution and delivery just aren’t there for me. A power pop punkish song from the early 2000s is what ‘No Regrets’ reminds me of. It is fun, different and quite cool in its own way. The solo is great and so very surprising in the direction it takes. But you know what it works. Will they play it live, I don’t think so, but really does show the new level of freedom the band has chosen to take stylistically.
Who snuck The Eagles onto the album? Oh, wait, no it’s not! ‘The Hunger’ starts with an Eagles ‘Take it Easy’ style riff but then turns into a generic slop bucket power ballad. I’m sorry it’s horrible!! But given a push on commercial radio will be gold. Lyrically it makes a Nickelback song look like classic literature. ‘Closer’ again starts strong, has a great feel and could be classified as classic Buckcherry. The straight-ahead formula of big riff ala AC/DC is tight and on point. Something isn’t quite right here though, I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but something is missing. It could be passed off as a really polished Airbourne song. Having said that it could have been a bit rawer and that could be what I feel to be missing. ‘The Devil in the Details’ is a groovy retro rock flavoured song that closes out the album really well. The diversity that this shows in style is really refreshing and pairs up really well with what they did on ‘Back Down’. I would love to hear the band do a soulful, bluesy inspired rock album.
Unfortunately, Warpaint lacks cohesion, but song by song on its own merit it is has some great moments. It is eclectic and somewhat a difficult listen from start to finish, but I still have hope for it. Aside from the generic moments and the odd simplistic lyric, it is a well-written album that sounds good. There is what seems to be a new found freedom in 2019 for the band. Warpaint shows off the new line up as being a force to be reckoned with and I can’t wait to see this line-up live. For me the albums MVP must go to Stevie D., his playing is stellar and his scope of ability supersedes anything he has done before on a Buckcherry record, but this comes as no surprise as he is one hell of a guitar player and songwriter.
By all means, please do check the album out for yourself; I think it will appeal to most old fans, but am so sure it will attract a whole new audience too with the right exposure.
Buckcherry – Warpaint tracklisting:
2. Right Now
3. Head Like A Hole
4. Radio Song
5. The Vacuum
7. Back Down
8. The Alarm
9. No Regrets
10. The Hunger
12. The Devil’s In The Details