Europe - Bag of Bones
31-Jul-2012 Label: earMUSIC/Edel
Playing time: 40:55
Rating: 82 %
Reviewed by Steve Mascord
To most people attending the Bloodstock Festival two years ago, describing Europe’s place as headliner as “incongruous” was an understatement. What Europe played in the 1980s does not even count as metal by its current definition; Cold Chisel were heavier.
But Europe weren’t pelted with bottles of piss or sharpened pennies. They weren’t even booed or jeered that much. Because they WERE heavy – much heavier than anyone but their loyal fans present had expected. To listen to Joey Tempest’s Swedish superstars now is to hear what Bon Jovi may have sounded like today if New Jersey flopped, if the ballads had failed to find traction. Imagine Jon Bon Jovi playing theatres instead of stadia, still fighting Ratt and Mötley Crüe for ticket and album sales.
Bag of Bones is the fourth album since Europe re-formed in 2003. The first two, Start From the Dark and Secret Society, dabbled in modern rock territory. With Last Look at Eden a couple of years back, the Swedes managed to blend the need to be relevant with the echoes of their glory days. Bag of Bones is another big step in that direction.
“Rags to Riches” is a bluesy, riffy, stadium rocker, “Firebox” is modern rock without the contrived abrasiveness and “My Woman, My Friend” is actually something of an epic, beginning it does with a simple piano refrain and building to the crescendo of a booming chorus.
In an apparently deliberate attempt to be as diverse as possible, the title track is an acoustic lament with a beguiling melody, “Mercy You, Mercy Me” has the sort of choppy delivery reminiscent of Last Look at Eden and the reviewer’s favourite off the entire record – which stood out like, ahem, dogs balls live last time I saw them – is “Doghouse”. There’s no reinvention of the wheel here, folks, just a rollicking slice bar-room boogie. Tempest’s vocal melody and the Zeppelin-esque Middle Eastern feel are the most striking elements of “Drink and a Smile” and “Requiem” starts off as melodramatic and cinematic as the title suggests – before moving back to ‘Eden territory.
“Not Supposed To Sing The Blues” is about being a musician from Scandinavia, I guess, and the prejudice one faces. “Bring It Home”, a muscular ballad, actually sounds like Bon Jovi do now.
Bag of Bones could have scored even higher with its one missing ingredient – one great rock song. Europe give the impression of an experienced athlete who ticks all the boxes, prepares perfectly, and maintains a consistently high standard. But is the personal best, the medal, the championship still in the future or back in the distant past? Experience and competence are well and good – but great rock required at least some recklessness and spontaneity. Let’s hope there is still some true inspiration to come from Europe.
1. Riches to Rags
2. Not Supposed to Sing the Blues
4. Bag of Bones
6. My Woman My Friend
7. Demon Head
8. Drink and a Smile
10. Mercy You Mercy Me
11. Bring it All Home
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