Release Date: 06.22.04
Record label: Sovereign Artists
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.
Just Like "These Dreams" Never Happened
by: matt cibula
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s and 1980s, so you’re damn right I rocked out to some Heart in my day. I don’t think I ever owned a single album, because I didn’t have to—everyone I knew had all their stuff, and the FM rock stations all had all the Wilson sisters’ songs on heavy rotation: “Magic Man,” “Barracuda,” “Crazy on You,” “Kick It Out,” “Bebe Le Strange,” “Even It Up,” “Straight On,” all these are just amazing massively emotional songs to me, and to everyone else from our area of the country. I mean, I sat through Mr. Mister as an opening act just to see Heart at the Memorial Coliseum when I was 20. I sat through Mr. Mister…tell me that ain’t some love for my homegirls.
In fact, I think Heart’s importance has been underestimated by every critic ever. Without Heart, no riot grrrl movement (Northwest girls always knew they could start bands), no Nirvana nor Pearl Jam nor maybe even Mudhoney. NO MUDHONEY, people! They’ve been dismissed as “the female Led Zeppelin,” but they weren’t, really, even if Ann does a kick-ass Robert Plant impression in concert; they’ve been dismissed as sellouts for their big hit powerballad years (late 1980s and early 1990s stuff like “Never,” which is an awesome song, and “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You,” which almost is, and “These Dreams,” which sucks), but they’d paid their dues, they deserved some big fat hits.
But I’m glad that time is finally over, because Heart is best at doing what they started out to do: folk-metal-pop with beautiful intertwining female vocals. And that is the triumph of Jupiter’s Darling: Ann and Nancy have figured out how to go back to being the kind of band they were in 1976, except in a good way—it’s the same sort of band, folk-metal-pop, but it’s beefier, bouncier, shinier than ever. Big glam slammers like “Move On” and “Fallen Ones” would have been massive hits for them in either one of their previous identities; the easy witchy acoustic picking of “Things” would have nestled right in on Dreamboat Annie; I could even see “The Perfect Goodbye” leading off Brigade or Heart.
But don’t be thinking “Oh great, a nostalgia trip,” because it’s not. “Oldest Story in the World” draws on Heart’s history, but its big crunchy goodness could hit the radio pretty hard if allowed to. Hooks like this, beautiful singing like this, savvy guitar work by new guy Craig Bartock like this—these are nothing at which to sneeze. “Vainglorious” has more blood in its veins than the whole Hoobastank catalog, and that’s no insult to Hoobastank. To me, it doesn’t get much better than Ann snarling out lines like “Slowly like a drop of tupelo honey / Rolling on down some little girl’s money.” And Nancy’s completely histrionic lead vocal on “I Feel Fine,” where she says “I’m okay, I’m okay, I’ll come around / Right after I have this little breakdown, breakdown, breakdown!” and then the music stops and they go right into “Fallen Ones”…oh, it’s gold frankincense and myrrh, with guitars. And it sounds new and vital rather than being lost and gauzy and “oh the old times were the best times.” Not only have Ann and Nancy “aged well,” musically, but they’ve also gained confidence and power. This might be their best album, EVER.
A lot is made of the special guests here, but I’m not sure how much they needed them. Sure, Mike (Pearl Jam) McCready’s e-bow work on “Led to One” adds a great eastern drone texture, and yeah, it’s great to hear Jerry Cantrell rocking out on his one guest shot. (What band was he in again? Haha, just kidding.) But more important to me is the way new lead guitarist Craig Bartock fits into the new six-piece Heart, and more important than that is the fact that both Ann and Nancy can still write great songs and sing the holy hell out of them.
And, more importantly than any of these things, Heart has done what most bands can only dream of doing: they’ve gotten back to their roots without sounding corny or boring in the least. I am celebrating this by cranking the album now even as I write this. Pacific Northwest till I die. 15-Aug-2004 8:00 PM