Most helpful critical review
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Springfield Occassionally Stumbles By The Time This WORLD Comes To An End
on February 12, 2013
Rick Springfield had his work cut out for him. After releasing arguably one of the best (if not THE best) albums of his career with 2008's VENUS IN OVERDRIVE, he had to either A) up his game BIG TIME, or B) possibly suffer a latter-day sophomore slump.
Sadly, in the end, it's slightly more B than A. It's not that SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD is a bad album...quite the contrary. Parts of the disc really do grow on you with repeated listens. It's just that it doesn't have the focus/sharpness/ease that graced VENUS.
In addition, there are times when the album is just downright noisy. This growing need that many aging rockers seem to have to prove that they can still ROCK is some what frustrating...we KNOW you can do it, so just DO it! After all these years, there's nothing to prove...rock is as much attitude as it is loudness, and attitude equals heart. (This quirky syndrome affected, among others, parts of the new Heart album as well).
A prime example of this trend is the opening track, "Wide Awake." There's so much going on in this bloated, over-the-top mess that nothing sticks. The frantic arrangement just seems chaotic, while the lyrics come across as shallow and amateurish. The lead vocal is decent enough, but it just gets lost under the weight of the rest of the track.
Far better is "Our Ship's Sinking." Everything is turned up to 11 here, but there's still a strong sense of melody and structure. Things ebb and flow, building and receding. Springfield's lead vocal is as full of heart as it is attitude, making this a TRUE rocker. This track should have opened the album.
"I Hate Myself" is my favorite cut for one reason...on this infectious rave-up, Springfield brilliantly blends the strongest moments of his poppier past with gutsy rock, resulting in an absolute gem. Toss in a killer lead vocal ~ how can you NOT love the high note in "Soooon!"? ~ and you have one of Springfield's best songs to date.
"You And Me" is a mid-tempo rocker that's delivered from the heart....and the soul. Springfield's honest, sincere lead vocal dances over the simple, yet powerful, arrangement, resulting in a romantic masterpiece. (When he sings "And all the world will burn", you know these two will be O.K.).
As strong as "Gabriel" is, I wish they had stayed with just the acoustic guitars and keyboards that open the cut....they perfectly cushion Springfield's shimmering lead vocal. There's absolutely no reason they needed to add electric guitars and drums to this track....it would have been perfect without them, showing a very different side to Springfield. Very good...could have been great.
"A Sign Of Life" isn't as bad as "Wide Awake" ~ it at least has a semblance of structure and a melody ~ but it still suffers from the same hollow, by-the-numbers vibe of the earlier cut. At this point in his career, Springfield can't be wasting time on songs that go nowhere, which is exactly what happens here.
"My Last Heartbeat" has some strong lyrical content ("There's a hole in my soul/Where the love leaks out/A shadow in my heart/That's filled with doubt/A devil on my back/I can hear him shout/'Let me in! Let me in'"), but it all sinks under the heft of the arrangement and the strained lead vocal. Once again, too too much.
"Joshua" is another wonderful example of that perfect blend of pop and rock. The track totally kicks out the jams, but it never once loses touch with it's melodic, tuneful core. Springfield's spirited lead vocal bobs and weaves between the lyrics, delivering a touching story of support, belief in someone, and, most importantly, love. Very nice.
"Love Screws Me Up" is my other favorite track. A buoyant arrangement (love the Stones-flavored guitars!), an almost giddy lead vocal and the spirited "la la" backing vocals all come together perfectly. Toss in some great lyrics ~ "I watch my heart/In your delicate hand/Slammed against my kitchen wall/It bursts like a bubble" ~ and you have pop perfection!
I'd have to call "I Found You" a draw...on the one hand, it sports a spot-on vocal and some strong lyrical imagry ("And then you made flowers from hurricanes"), but there's just something about the arrangement that seems....overdone. This is another one of those "kitchen sink" songs. (In retrospect, a lot of SFTEOTW would've benefited from the old "Less is more" adage). Another "Nice, but could've been better" cut.
I don't want to sound like a broken record, but "Depravity" is another track that just doesn't go anywhere....well, no where besides backwards. This cut is like a bad 80's flashback. Another miss. (The repeated spelling of the title is particularly annoying).
The disc ends on a strong note, chugging along with the clear-eyed, focused "One Way Street." The arrangement is crisp and economical, the vocal energetic and sincere. Granted, the lyrics get a little cliched ("Love is never a one way street"), but, overall, this is a pretty memorable way to close things out.
So, the million dollar question is....where does Rick Springfield go from here? Was VENUS IN OVERDRIVE a fluke? Or is SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD just the minor stumble? In either case, I will be here for the next chapter! (As with all my reviews, I'm docking the disc half a star for not including the lyrics).