In life, fewer things are more certain than the aging rock band putting out the “deeper” album. Los Angeles hard rock outfit Buckcherry, now pushing fifteen years of putting out records, isn’t the exception. For those keeping score, the guitar driven sound of Buckcherry ignited in 1995. The band released a self-titled album in 1999 and then Time Bomb in 2001. By 2002 Buckcherry had crashed and broken up. After three years apart, Buckcherry reunited, releasing 2006’s 15, which held their biggest hit “Sorry” as well as “Crazy Bitch”. From there the band released Black Butterfly (2008) and then All Night Long (2010). Neither record was particularly impressive from a songwriting or sales perspective.
Facing down the barrel of middle age, and possibly being left broken by the side of the Road To Rock, Buckcherry rallied the troops and decided to go concept. Confessions is the result of that rally, the concept coming from the seven deadly sins and the depth coming from vocalist Josh Todd’s troubled youth. Taking those elements Buckcherry has concocted the ultimate Appletini for those who need a bit of theatrical flair with their rock music.
Confessionsdrops the rubber to the road instantly. “Gluttony” drops guitar punches over a thumping kick drum while Todd screams “You say I drink too much, you say I fuck too much”. When the full riff opens up we’re introduced to the monologue of a man who lives to excess and has no desire to stop. On the surface this is a good time rock jam, something you drive around to and sing along. Not too far below that surface is the easy assumption that Todd is talking about himself. A rock singer lamenting over excess isn’t new territory, but Buckcherry do know how to write a kicking arena sing along.
As much as Todd’s lyrics may be a part of Confessions, the album wouldn’t exist with guitarist Keith Nelson’s almost eerie ability at writing a memorable riff. “Nothing Left But Tears” is a standard bad relationship tune, but Nelson’s guitar parts are so appealing that they forcibly elevate the fist into the air and make it pump back and forth. It’s impossible to deny.
“Greed” has a dirty swing to it. Nelson lets the guitars ring softly behind the bass during the verse so the chorus riff hits like a jackhammer. One of the most interesting songs is “Envy”, which has an almost Cure vibe to it, at least musically. While there is a sense of repetition to how Nelson writes, there is no denying his ability to craft a guitar part.
The problems on Confessions begin and end with the ballads. “Sloth” is the only standout from that, mainly because Todd seems to be touching some real emotions about his father’s suicide. The music is epic, mixing huge guitars with the rock-ballad-go-to, the string section. Outside of “Sloth”, the ballads are dull filler that kills the energy of the music. The first ballad, “The Truth” follows the raging “Nothing Left But Tears”. The tune is not only boring musically, the lyrics could have been taken from the “How To Write Every Rose Has It’s Thorn Without Sounding Like It” handbook.
“Dreamin’ Of Your Face”, which closes out Confessions, is equally clichéd. The bad boy rocker strumming an acoustic guitar and singing earnestly about some long lost somebody is too easy, even for Buckcherry, and it ends the record on a clunky note. You might think two lonely ballads wouldn’t derail an entire record but it does. Musically, Confessions relies on high rock pacing. Each song has to flow into the other in order for the rock clichés and repetition of structure not to be too obvious. When you hit a wall as hard as these ballads, it takes time to get back into the groove. That time hurts the overall impact of the record.
Regardless of how deep or spiritual Buckcherry are attempting to be with Confessions, they keep their eye on what they are. They’re expected have dirty rock riffs ala old Motley Crue and lyrics that are slightly revealing but also saturated with bad boy rock posturing. The easily definable fist of rebellion has been a necessary cog in the rock machine since Elvis first swung his hips. Buckcherry are part of a fine lineage of bands that exist simply to rock the party while looking great doing it.