Sunday, 26 February 2017

Bad English - Bad English

Provenance: I awoke one wintry morning in early 2008 with one of the worst headaches I have ever endured. I had been drinking, you see, as men are wont to do. Milky sunbeams streamed through my window as I attempted to gather myself together. The incessant jabbering of political talking heads on the radio irked me, so I groped towards one of the preset buttons and hoped for the best. Music is what my body and soul needed.

And sweet, sweet sounds filled the air. As I lay there with pounding head and cracked lips I drifted into a kind of reverie as first Little Steven's 'Los Desaparecidos' and then Bad English's 'Forget Me Not' washed over me. Not even Heaven's own choristers could compare with what I was hearing in that rare moment.

A couple of years later someone was selling the Bad English album for two quid at work. My thoughts were swallowed in an instant by that memory of mine back at university and so, with tears welling in my eyes, I sent an email: yes, I said, yes - I will buy your Bad English album.

Review: I like Journey. I don't love them, but I like them enough to own a couple of hours. I like them enough to roll my eyes when people go nuts over 'Don't Stop Believin' (hello, it's not even their best song - 'Who's Crying Now', right?). I also like The Babys to the extent that I have included 'Isn't It Time' on mixtapes for more than one love interest. So a band comprised of former Babys (John Waite, Ricky Phillips) and current Journeymen (Neal Schon, former Baby Jonathan Caine) should be superlative, right? Wrong.

As an aside, I should also add that Deen Castronovo, who would later drum for Journey, was also in the lineup. Castronovo would later be kicked out of Journey after being sentenced for domestic violence, and Wikipedia now use his mugshot as his picture.

This album has two redeeming features - John Waite's singing, which is good throughout, and 'Forget Me Not'. Even in a state of stupefaction it's heartening to know that my critical faculties still work. I guess opening track 'Best Of What I Got' isn't terrible, albeit it's a touch redolent of a song commissioned to be used as incidental music in a 1980s buddy cop movie. Imagine the kind of upbeat, formulaic rocker that starts up after the freeze-framed high-five at the end. Likewise, the mid-paced 'Heaven Is A 4 Letter Word' has a chorus that feels nicely anthemic without ever truly soaring.

The first true fly in the Aqua Net is 'Possession', which every now and again sounds like 'The Flame' by Cheap Trick. Which isn't surprising, as producer Richie Zito was responsible for the Cheap Trick album which featured, er, 'The Flame', released the year before this. 'Possession' sounds like virtually every other hair metal ballad of the period, which is synonymous with me saying it's a heap of lukewarm shite. Who did good ballads in the 80s anyway? Whitesnake were pretty decent, and Heart's 'Alone' is up there (I was blown away when I saw them do it live). As if to underline the point, Bad English outdoes itself in terrible balladry with 'When I See You Smile'. It makes 'Possession' sound like Slayer's 'Raining Blood'.

There's no real point in going song-by-song for the rest of the album. This will suffice: the more up-tempo tracks don't quite make me want to beat a puppy to death with my fists, the slower ones do. If you could picture the most generic freeze-dried, windswept, big hair stadium rock band in your head, the sound that they would make is Bad English. And that, for me, is their biggest crime.

As is the case with many of these 'supergroup' projects, there's no evidence that anyone involved tried to push the envelope. I am way more inclined to be charitable to a spectacular failure when it shows a hint of ambition, but everything on Bad English smacks of 'this'll do'. The sheer horror of Bad English is revealed in its crushingly bland competence. When the average episode of CSI: Miami contains more surprises you've got a problem.

On the plus side, at least 'Forget Me Not' still sounds good.

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