Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog) (last update 5/23/2017)

May 18, 2012

Bret Michaels ~ Custom Built

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Style: country-rock, glam rock
Label: Poor Boy Records
Year: 2011
Home: Arizona

Members: Bret Michaels ~ vocals
n/a ~ other instruments

Guest: Miley Cyrus ~ backing vocals

The first of singer BM's four solo albums to have a charting single ... but don't expect the big hair hard rock of his former gig Poison. Actually, if you've been paying attention to his well-orchestrated comeback there's no hint of Poison, even figuratively speaking. The venom is gone while what remains of the L.A. glam should not be this imitative & bland from someone who was once in the front of the scene. But, well-orchestrated is the keyword. Authenticity is not. Poison is long gone & in his mind he never stopped being a superstar, even if nowadays most people only remember Poison for a few hits & being imitative of Motley Crue with extra big hair, so therefore he should be doing what superstars do & not the nostalgia music circuit. There's no nostaligia here. What is it that superstars do today? They're on tv! BM has rekindled his career not as a music superstar but as a tv star who happens to do music, but with 'America Idol' & all its spin-offs that seems to be what everyone does. He's already appeared on 'Celebrity Apprentice 3', 'Nashville Star', 'America's Got Talent' & has his own shows 'Bret Michael: Life As I Know It' & 'Rock Of Love'. Those that grew up with BM in the 80's may have tuned in a few times to see their guy return, but probably tuned out when they saw it was the same face but different scene. 80's rockers who remain 80's rockers aren't interested in being anything but what they are & certainly not 00's rockers. What remained, sadly, ended up being suburbia Christian America that watches a lot of tv ... & buys a lot of stuff including music. There's a reason this album has charted as BM found a niche & a new audience & has recreated himself to their interests. Which means it's not L.A. but Nashville. BM has largely become a country balladeer. The problem is he's about as much as a country singer as Jewel & she has even more of a smalltown image from out of the way Alaska than he does ... it's a way to stay alive, stay relevant, make a living, be famous ... it just lacks any soul or feeling of being real. At least Ted Nugent really is a country boy even when he was a bad boy. I'd like to see BM go out hunting & talk about Republicans & being a good Christian, which he may already do even if his history states otherwise. This isn't a dive on Christians or Republicans, some of my best friends are both, but it's a far different scene than L.A. party time. Some people dig BM's new attitude. That's cool. Really. It's not a bad look. It's just not great music. In a way I hope those people who like it will just go back in time to the good days & check out Poison. This is for those who think Kid Rock is a great rocker & prefer the later decade of Bon Jovi over the early days. Actually, it sounds a lot like later era Bon Jovi. It's commercially slick, a bit of country-flavored Americana, not the Springsteen/Mellencamp Americana genre, & very safe & very middle America middle class. The troops in Iraq reference in at least one set of lyrics is definetly aiming for middle America versus the L.A. sleeze scene where going to war is something to decry not give tears of hope for. But, Bon Jovi is still a relevant band even if those of us who remember the first time around think differently. I give them & BM kudos for finding a way to return & be relevant to a new generation. I just hope ... Though, really, BM has always had a bit of country in his vocabularly. The problem is here he redoes the classic "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" as a straight country song. It's lost its personality & sounds tongue-in-cheek maudlin. What's worse is that this horrible remake already appeared on his earlier Freedom Of Sound album & now gets reissued here. It's one of a three tracks pulled over from the earlier album with a remix of a fourth track, while another track comes from the earlier "A Letter From Death Row." Repeating tracks is nothing but a marketing scheme & belays the well-orchestrated approach as its obviously an album built around the latest reality tv show. Thus, Custom Built is really just an EP in disguise. As for that EP there's a few country rock songs, more country pop than Johnny Cash county folk ... "Riding Against The Wind" even gets a fake heartland accent ... rotating with some imitative sounding sleaze rock. The best songs are the country ballads for the main reason that the country songs feature heart-felt lyrics while the hard rock distorted guitar outings have the most shallow cliched sex lyrics one can get, such as "it's just sex so let's just fuck ... even try to get your name right" from the workable "Lie To Me". The feeling coming across is that BM is totally obvious of the strides that sleaze rock has taken over the years to be something more than bad love songs. Or, maybe he wants to continue the stereotype that rock has nothing to say while country music has a story to tell. It's too bad he has to pander to this line of thinking as obviously he can write good songs whatever the style. One of the more interesting inclusions on Custom Built, if the title itself doesn't belay well-orchestrated, is a cover of Sublime's "What I Got" with a beatbox opening over acoustic guitars in a strange sythesis. But, it rocks harder than anything else on the album when the electric guitars chug in. While if Sublime doesn't reach the new generation than a song with Miley Cyrus doing backing vocals certainly will. It's probably one of the more interesting tracks only hurt by the fact that a non-Cyrus acoustic demo version is included which is obvious filler. As for filler there's a club mix of "Go That Far" showing both BM's desperation to reach everyone, though I've never seen Poison as being good for gay nightclub dance floors, while also giving a compilation appeal to this new release. It's ironic that it's thus the first solo release to have a chart-topping single when its such a marketing scheme in disguise. BM has become a heavy balladeer picking up what made "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" so interesting decades ago but leaving the soul & authenticity behind. What's worse is there's so many of his peers that have also made a comeback but with the music everyone loves them for & the accolades are overwhelming. BM is playing the tv game, good for him for getting the gig, but it's also a fickle audience. Once reality shows are over he'll be over, but 80's rock fans never grow up.

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