By Andrew McNally Columnist
Eric Clapton – “Old Sock” Grade: C
I grew up on ‘Clapton is God,’ but as with any god, my faith is being questioned. His 20th solo album eschews blues to embrace reggae influences that he has previously used only subtly. The result is 10 covers and two original songs, nearly all of which feel lifeless. Sir Paul McCartney’s guest spot goes unnoticed, and J.J. Cale only shows up on the worst songs. When the guitar comes out, it’s fresh. But it largely stays dusty in its case. Clapton once quit the Yardbirds because he felt the band wasn’t bluesy enough. He’s come a long way since then.
If You Like: John Lennon, Willie Nelson Key Track: “All of Me”
Marnie Stern – “The Chronicles of Marnia” Grade: B+
Equal parts bubblegum vocals and thrashing guitar, Marnie Stern’s fourth album adds little to her discography creatively, but it is a subtle progression. “The Chronicles of Marnia” – perhaps the best album title of the year – blends her crisp vocals and gritty guitar better than her previous works. Her vocals and lyrics still fall victim to her constant guitar tapping, but they’re beginning to blend better. It’s 32 minutes of Eddie Van Halen as a young, female indie Brooklynite who can equate emotion with volume and speed. If you’ve always wanted noise-rock-inspired indie pop, here’s a start.
If You Like: Maps & Atlases, Sleater-Kinney Key Track: “Proof of Life”
Bon Jovi – “What About Now” Grade: D-
Set your clock to 1986 and send your weird aunt a Facebook message to tell her to update her workout CD. Bon Jovi’s new album is essentially one long, occasionally acoustic song. If conventional radio rock is your thing, then here’s your album. There’s nothing new, different or interesting, but fans of the band will likely enjoy it. Bon Jovi never strays from that formula for twelve tracks of guitar-based pop-rock, referencing both Gucci and CBGB’s in out-of-touch ways. There’s one track where Jon sings, “Do you want what’s left of me?” No.
If You Like: Heart, earlier Bon Jovi Key Track: N/A