Thursday, November 9, 2017
Album Review: Pink Cream 69 - Headstrong
Names and symbols are important. We can argue about whether they should be, or whether music itself should be all we're concerned with, but we live in a commercial reality. The fact that Pink Cream 69 is names Pink Cream 69 is one of the reasons why they languish in the melodic rock scrum, only known to those people who seek out that kind of music. They've made plenty of solid records (at least one of which I used to be quite fond of), but they have a tough sell to make just on the basis of their name. Try telling a friend or family member about them. It's awkward.
After thirty years, the band is celebrating their anniversary with this new album, continuing along the trajectory they've been on for years now. The combination of Dennis Ward and David Readman have established the band's sound and identity, and it would be foolish to think they're going to change now.
The band's appeal is that in the world of melodic rock, they are on the heavier end. There's a slight metallic edge to their riffing, and Readman's voice can get just rough enough to dirty up the sound. That might sound good, but it actually works against them. Melodic rock is, etymologically, melodic first and foremost. Their heavier approach to the form dulls the melody, which is a decision that makes me scratch my head a bit.
They write riffs that fit the melodic mold, putting most of the focus on the vocals. But by virtue of the songs being heavier, and written in the way they are, Readman's melodies in the choruses are flat, trying to be more chants than sing-alongs. When you compare this to the album Ward made recently with his other band, Khymera, the difference is stark. Khymera's album had far more melodies, and was the kind of album that put a smile on your face, even if you didn't fall in love with it. Punk Cream 69 is not capable of doing that, at least not here.
This is an album that, to me, doesn't know what it wants to be. The band feels caught between melodic rock and heavy metal, and they mix the forgettable parts of both, and not the appealing ones. If they had chosen to write inventive riffs with strong melodies, we would be talking about something special here. Instead, they have generic guitar playing with bone-stock choruses. It lacks anything to give the songs a spark.
Maybe thirty years of being saddled with a horrible name has pushed the band towards trying to hard to prove themselves. I don't know how they came to this formula, but it isn't working. It's not bad music like a lot of things I've heard this year, but it's entirely anonymous.