Friday, June 8, 2018

Album Review: TNT - XIII

I'm not old enough to remember when TNT was a relevant rock band, so all I know of them is the drama surrounding their revolving door singer's perch. Tony Harnell has come and gone more times than I can count, and along the way they have squandered whatever good will they might have once had by not delivering new music, and offering mediocre music on the rare occasions they did. At a certain point, when things become so difficult just to exist, it needs to be asked whether there is really a point in continuing on. I don't see anyone clamoring for TNT to keep going, and I don't hear any buzz in advance of this latest attempt at hitting the reset button.

The record was teased with the single "Get Ready For Some Hard Rock", which came across as more of a warning than they intended. It was a disappointing song, sounding cheap and unfinished, and not at all like the hard rock we were expecting. If that was a signal of what was to come, we should tread carefully.

And indeed, this TNT record is not at all what I would have expected from them. Instead of playing classic hard rock, or melodic rock, this album finds them sounding more like a modern pop/rock band, but without the catchy hooks that can sometimes make that style bearable. Instead, what we get is a lifeless attempt at sounding relevant, with songs heavy on drum grooves, and guitars that sound like practice amps that screech when trying to play anything heavy. These tracks have no energy, no guts, and no hooks. Instead of a band that's been around for decades, this album sounds like a local band's first effort in a real studio.

What I find most amazing is that TNT is a band with a long history, and some degree of success that should carry them beyond this simply by muscle memory. Veterans who have been around the block enough times might not have the most creative spark anymore, but they have written enough songs to know what does and doesn't work. That makes the decisions on this record even harder to understand. It actually falls much in line with Quiet Riot's album from last year, where you have people with enough name and reputation to be able to bring in whatever help it takes to make a quality album, but they can't see themselves honestly anymore.

The sense I get from listening to this album is that the turmoil within the band's lineup very possibly boils down to a split on the direction to go. I can see why some with a hard rock pedigree would want nothing to do with this watered-down sound, and for Tony Harnell especially, as he can be working right now on a new Starbreaker album, which is an infinitely better option for him.

The redeeming thing about "XIII" is that there are worse records that have been put out recently by bands of similar vintage. There isn't much positive to say, but it's still a more professional sounding record than Quiet Riot put out, and it's still a better record than LA Guns released. They haven't fallen quite as hard as those bands, but there isn't much to be said in TNT's favor. This record is necessary to show the band isn't folding in the face of their problems, but this record is a problem unto itself. I wouldn't consider it a good enough album from a brand new rock band just getting their feet under them, but for a veteran group, it's inexcusable.

Triskaidekaphobia applies here.

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