Hurtsmile – s/t (2011)

Hurtsmile – s/t (2011, Frontiers Records)

  1. Just War Theory
  2. Stillborn
  3. love Thy Neighbor
  4. Kaffur (Infidel)
  5. Painter Paint
  6. Tolerance Song (edit)
  7. Set Me Free
  8. Jesus Would You Meet Me
  9. Slave
  10. Beyond The Garden/Kicking Against The Goads
  11. Just War Reprise
  12. The Murder Of Daniel Faulkner (4699)

Band Lineup:
Gary Cherone – Vocals
Mark Cherone – Guitar
Joe Pessia – Bass, Mandolin
Dana Spellman – Drums, Percussion

Produced by: Gary Cherone & Joe Pessia

Country: USA

Total Time = 49:50

Hurtsmile
Hurtsmile MySpace
Gary Cherone
Frontiers Records

I’m a big Extreme fan from way back in the beginning so when Gary Cherone’s new project, Hurtsmile, was announced, I knew that it would be something unique. The problem with a Gary solo project is that sometimes he gets way too experimental and deviates from the Rock sound that made him a success in Extreme and Van Halen. Take a listen to the Tribe Of Judah album from 2002…..if you can sit through it! That album was horrible (I can’t even explain how bad it was!) due to it’s highly experimental direction and lack of Rock. I’m all of artistic expression and exploring new music avenues but a Rock album should be a Rock album when it’s promoted as such. Now I was really into the last Extreme album, SAUDADES DE ROCK (2007), and their live CD & DVD, TAKE US ALIVE: BOSTON 2009 (2010), so I knew that I was going to buy the Hurtsmile CD but I was crossing my fingers that I would like it.

The album starts out well with the Hard Rock of ‘Just War Theory’ and ‘Stillborn’ and you can immeadiately hear that Gary’s voice is still top notch and his brother, Mark Cherone, has some serious guitar going. You could almost put these songs in either the last Van Halen or Extreme album because they have that modern, edgy flavor. Actually, the sound is almost Grunge, especially on ‘Stillborn’, and I can hear traces of Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots…..influences that will permeate all the harder and/or faster songs on the record.

‘Love Thy Neighbor’ starts out with a 1950s a capella intro but moves into more more familiar modern Rock territory as does ‘Kaffur (Infidel)’, sans intro. Four songs into the album and so far things are going along a modern Hard Rock path with some serious guitar work but the band throws us a curve with the Beatles-inspired acoustic ‘Painter Paint’. This is Gary’s showcase without a doubt, you can really hear his singing voice and how great it really is, kind of like you can do with the Extreme classic ‘More Than Words’. I don’t want to put Gary in a certain box but this guy can sing ballads with the best of them and have great success, I’m surprised that there aren’t more on albums he records.

One of the reasons Gary was hired to replace Sammy Hagar in Van Halen is because he has a very similar sounding voice at times and there is no better example of that with the beginning line of ‘Tolerance Song’…..you swear that’s Sammy! The song follows the same formula as the first four rockers but there’s a little more experimentation with different tones and effects on Gary’s vocals to make it sound more current. The vocal effects almost remind me of some of the ones Motley Crue used for Vince Neil on parts of GENERATION SWINE (1997). The songwriting here isn’t that great and I’m not really digging the song at all. ‘Set Me Free’ continues that thick guitar driven grungy sound mixed with more quiet parts where Gary’s voice carries the song, I like the solo break and Mark Cherone really shines, he plays well through the entire album. ‘Jesus Would You Meet Me’ sounds a bit like Extreme’s ‘Hole Hearted’ instrumentally but the song takes an acoustic/Bluegrass/church hymn direction. I wasn’t really sure about this track the first couple of times I heard it but, after multiple spins, I like it for it’s simplicity and it’s similarity to the Extreme hit. A quick bass intro with some vocal effects open ‘Slave’ and continue throughout the track except for the chorus. The song takes a few twists and turns stylistically and I think it’s really too varied. The band gets back to what I think is their strong suit: the ballad. I was really impressed with ‘Painter Paint’ and ‘Beyond The Garden/Kicking Against The Goads’ also leaves a lasting impression with it’s soothing arrangement and Gary’s smooth vocal.

Unfortuately, I have to kill ‘Just War Reprise’. I get that Hurtsmile is an experiment in sound but it stays mostly on the Rock side of things…..’Just War Reprise’ is a Reggae version and it just doesn’t fit. I’m not bagging it because it’s Reggae, I like some Reggae, but on a Rock record? I give the band credit for trying something new but it doesn’t work for me. The final track is ‘The Murder Of Daniel Faulkner (4699)’, a tribute to the Philadelphia police officer who was killed in the line of duty in 1981, his badge number being #4699. The song reminds me of a Bob Dylan or a Tom Petty song (is there any sonic difference between the two anymore?) and it tells the tale of Officer Faulkner and the incidents involving Mumia Abu-Jamal resulting in his death on the night of 12/9/1981. The song is best described as a folk ballad, more of a musical story if you will, with excellent acoustic guitar and focused vocals. I guess you could maybe call this Ballad #3 of the album but there’s a little more to it than a straight up ballad, there’s a lot of emotion invovled as Gary recounts the story. Bagpipes mark the end of the song in tribute to a fallen officer.

Bottom Line:
I have to admit, this album didn’t really grab me after the first couple of spins, the songs were too grungy and a complete mix of different styles. I kept listening though because I’m a big fan of Gary Cherone and Hurtsmile grew on me. I was ready to lump this in with the industrial Tribe Of Judah (a huge mess!) as another experimental failure and send the message to Gary in this review to just stick with Rock but careful listening proved that there’s a lot more to hear. Extreme fans might not get into this album because it’s different than the traditional Hard Rock you expect but, if you’re looking for something different, Hurtsmile might do the trick. I’m not going to put this album at the top of the heap but I’m not going to cast it to the bottom of the 2011 pile either. This CD is a grower and there are a few songs that rise above the rest, particularly the ballads.

Favorite Songs:
‘Just War Theory’, ‘Painter Paint’, ‘Jesus Would You Meet Me’, ‘Beyond The Garden/Kicking Against The Goads’

CD Scavenger Hunt (February update)

February is about to end, and I’m not heading out on the hunt until the coming Tuesday (March 1st), so I figured I’d get this update out on time for a change! It was a pretty slow month for new releases at the record store but not online…..I may have to start ordering a little more at some of the online shops to get all those releases you just can’t get in-store anymore.

Newbury Comics

Motorhead – The World Is Yours (2011) – $10: A complete no-brainer here because any self-respecting Heavy Metal fan should be buying every new Motorhead album…..I’ve been a fan since the early ’80s so you know I was at the record store early for this one! I bought the CD for $9.99 on sale the day of release and I got the limited edition with the bonus DVD of part of the band’s performance at the 2006 Wacken Open Air Festival in Germany. This album was well-stocked but I didn’t see a single disc version at all and I’m not sure if there is a single disc. You know what you’re getting when you buy a Motorhead album, they’re like AC/DC in the regard that they do the same thing each time with no eye towards current trends. It’s all just kick ass Metal! Regular price for the limited edition was $17 so I saved $7 but you can’t blame someone for paying full price…..this is Motorhead after all!

Crowbar – Sever The Wicked Hand (2011) – $10: I picked up the new Crowbar as an afterthought, I figured I’d just try the band out. I’ve seen a few Crowbar videos on MTV2’s Headbangers Ball, and I got into the two Kingdom Of Sorrow albums, so checking out Crowbar was a natural progression. I don’t own any Crowbar albums and, aside from those few videos, I’d never heard a Crowbar song. Basically, I was walking around the record store and finding nothing of real importance or significance to add to my Motorhead purchase so I grabbed the Crowbar CD (it was displayed next to Motorhead) and went to the register. I don’t think I’ve ever left a record store with a single CD and I sure wasn’t about to start now! Regular price on the CD was $16 so I saved $7 with the $9.99 sale price…..not a large sum to risk on a band you have no experience with.

Lemmy – 49% Motherfucker/51% Son Of A Bitch DVD (2011) – $18: The main focus of my second trip to the local record shop was the new Lemmy documentary DVD…..how can you beat two weeks straight of Motorhead related new releases? I had seen the documentary on VH-1 Classic so I set the DVR to record it but I never bothered to watch it knowing that it would be severely edited…..at least they’re playing it! This is a 2 DVD set with the original documentary clocking in at about 2 hours on disc one and a bonus DVD with over three hours of extra material. That’s the stuff I want to see because you know that there’s got to be ton of interesting footage of Lemmy and Motorhead doing what they do. and a ton of behind the scenes/making of stuff as well. Lemmy is well into his his mid-60s and the guy is still making records, playing full tours and kicking ass! Original price on the DVD was $25 so I saved $7.

Mr. Big – What If… (2011) – $14: This was the second reason why I ventured out for a second hunt at Newbury Comics. Say what you want about Mr. Big but they always rocked even if they’re best known for their syrupy ballad ‘To Be With You’ from way back in 1991. If you remember, they had a hit off their first album with ‘Addicted To That Rush’ but they got lumped into the big hair and sappy love song bands and there’s so much more to them. I had originally thought that WHAT IF… was going to be released a week earlier (that’s what I was looking for the trip before) so I snatched up one of the three copies of the limited edition I saw in the new release section. You get a choice of the single disc for $11 or the limited edition with the bonus track ‘Unforgiven’ and a bonus DVD with two videos and the making of the record for $3 more. Seems logical to me! This album is an import on Frontiers Records so the regular price was a little higher on this version at $18 but I still saved $4.

Stryper – The Covering (2011) - $10: I support the bands I grew up with and Stryper is no exception. I started with SOLDIERS UNDER COMMAND (1985) and kept buying all their studio albums over the years. I was hoping for a brand new studio album because their last one was awesome but I knew exactly what I was getting into with THE COVERING. It’s an album of covers with one new song…..and I detest covers records when new material could be put out.For some reason, I always get sucked into these cover albums, and the tribute albums too. I figured that the sale price wasn’t a lot to risk and maybe there would be some decent versions of the songs…..it’s not a bad album, just one I probably won’t spin again. I guess I wasted $10? Well, at least I saved $5 off the regular price! The band is coming to town in late March but this new CD doesn’t get my blood pumping to buy a ticket…..yet.

Hurtsmile -s/t (2011) – $10: I’ve been an Extreme fan from the beginning and I was a big supporter of Gary Cherone in Van Halen so I was on the lookout for this new project from Gary while Extreme takes a break. The Extreme reunion of the last few years has been excellent, especially their last record SAUDADES DE ROCK (2008), but Gary’s last project, Tribe Of Judah, sucked royally! Tribe of Judah was way to experimental and that’s the problem with Gary solo: you never know what you’re going to get. Even the album with Van Halen was experimental but that was more Eddie Van Halen than Gary. Hurtsmile could either be an Extreme-like project or an extreme project. Gary isn’t above experimenting and trying different syles but that Tribe of Judah record was so bad it still hurts! This one’s a risk like Stryper but I’m high on Extreme right now so I think it will be worth it. Regular price was $15 so I saved $5.

Nelson – Lightning Strikes Twice (2011) – $17: Another risky purchase, especially at the full regular price! I admit it, I own AFTER THE RAIN (1990) and I liked it back in the day…..there was no way to escape it! I haven’t bought another Nelson record since and I’ve had ample opportunities to add some of their follow-ups at cheap used prices. Call it backlash but I just couldn’t stomach Nelson after they were all over MTV with their squeaky clean image. So why am I buying their latest album? Not sure but I was walking around the store and the album cover caught my eye. Frontiers Records was having a great release day with ’80s artists with Nelson, Mr. Big and Gary Cherone’s Hurtsmile and they were all well-stocked. If I’m going to take a chance on Stryper doing covers and Cherone possibly releasing a wreck of a record then I can definitely plnk the money down for 12 original tunes by the talented Nelson brothers. And that’s the thing, these guys are talented musicians, they just got lumped in with the rest back in the day and they paid for their quick rise to the top. I’m as interested in this as I am the new Mr. Big…..looking forward to it.

Cauldron – Burning Fortune (2011) – $7: I had to counter the ’80s bands’ new releases with some solid new school Traditional Metal and the new record from Cauldron fit the bill. When I read about a band, I write the name down for future reference and I’d done that with Cauldron a couple years ago when I read a review on their first album, CHAINED TO THE NITE (2009). I never picked that album up but I kept the name on my wish list so I could pick it up at some point. I like what these guys have to offer: basic heavy Metal like I grew up with and they’re a three piece, if they sound like their Canadian counterparts Anvil or Annihilator then I’ll be happy. How can you pass up a new album for $6.99 on sale? I can’t ! I would have grabbed this based on the old school album artwork anyway so it’s cool to check out this band on the cheap price. Regular price was $12.99 so I saved $6.

Total = $96

Total (year) = $163

Average Price (per item) = $8.58

Total Savings (month) = $41

Total Savings (year) = $195

Total CDs (year) = 18

Total DVDs (year) = 1

Total Box Sets (year) = 0

Total LPs (year) = 0