|TNT The New Territory||Bonnier Amigo|
This is one of the toughest reviews I have had to write in a long long time. It is always hard to talk negatively about an artist you admire and have appreciated over the years, even harder that all the guys involved are good people too. However, I cannot be anything but honest as far as how I see it and straight up – I find this album to be very disappointing and not at all representative of what the name TNT brings to mind.|
The most logical conclusion from some will be that it is due to the change in vocalist. I'm sure that plays a part, but in this case, I simply feel that the songs are just not good enough and concentrate too hard on trying to be cleaver or different rather than classic TNT style.
I am a big TNT fan, but have had issues with some of their previous releases - Firefly being the most obvious. I am also a fan of new vocalist Tony Mills – his work over the years has been reviewed in a largely positive way on this site, especially with Shy.
The loss of vocalist Tony Harnell was always going to be hard for this band to overcome, but thinking logically, Tony Mills was the probably the most obvious choice of replacement, his voice capable of handling the band's back catalogue in a live setting.
So I have no issue with Tony Mills fronting the band, but that said I am disappointed with some of his vocals on this album and the overall choice of direction by the entire band.
This is another step away from the classic TNT approach.
And this is the first time I can ever recall actually being annoyed by Tony's vocals. Even on the horribly produced Anderssen/Mills project, I liked his approach.
The New Territory is an apt title, not only for the switch in vocalists, but this album continues the move started on the last album All The Way To The Sun to be more experimental again.
The hard rock approach of the band's classic era is all but dismantled, even though their most successful album in many years was My Religion, an album that retuned the band to their most loved sound and style.
This is a groovier, more freestyle pop/rock record, with the band seemingly content on mixing it up and experimenting wherever possible. But for me, these experiments don't work and it is only when the band returns to their more straight ahead sound that I feel satisfied with the song.
There are clear influences from pop Gods The Beatles and Queen in play as well as Ronni's own Vagabond band, which this album has more in common with than traditional TNT.
At times I felt the band had more in common with The Darkness than TNT and for the first time since Firefly, I simply could not stand a couple of the songs at all.
In fact, as hard as it is to type this comment – the more I listen to this record the less I like it.
I find that on some songs I really enjoy Tony's vocal, but don't like the guitar sound, while on other tracks I am enjoying the music, but hating the vocal.
It is an unusual situation that I can find no previous parallel to, as far as reviews I have written, and between the individual issues I have which each given track, there are few that I can say I just enjoyed outright.
Track By Track:
A Constitution opens suitably enough. A nice build up featuring the classic LeTekro guitar sound signals promising times ahead. Tony Mills makes his TNT debut in a subdued way – a dark and brooding vocal line to start. The chorus sees him lift to his usual range and that you'd normally expect from TNT, given their history with Tony Harnell. But the chorus also features a lead guitar riff that I don't like at all. The higher pitch riff is actually quite annoying. If a guitar could whine…then this is how it would sound.
Substitute is a poppy uptempo rocker with an abrasive guitar riff in effect, dueling with the lead vocal during the verse. I like Tony's vocals here and the song is ok. It has attitude and although it isn't the best production I have heard from the band, it works out.
Are You Blind? reminds me of the last album a little. The guys are really treading a very poppy line here, especially with the chorus. Certainly not the old school hard rock of the past. Some of the vocal melodies during the verse don't sit well with me, but the chorus is the strongest of the album to date.
Golden Opportunity is a perplexing one. The riff is classic TNT, yet I don't like the leading vocal that leads off each verse. The chorus is better and I like the vocals here also. However, mid-song things get turned on their head with a pretty annoying bridge that borders on just plain silly. The na na na's get old quickly.
Something Special kicks off with a far meatier riff that suggests vintage TNT in play. It some ways this is true, although it is always going to be a different beat with Tony Mills up front. Not one of the stronger TNT songs ever, but one of the closest things to a familiar style on the record.
Now We're Talkin' is just plain bizarre. It kicks in with a gritty riff and groove that suggests something special before the song is killed off instantly with Tony doing the verse in a spoken word British cockney accent. It drives me nuts. Then there is the chorus. It bounds in with a progressive twist and Tony singing at last, but flies into some effects filled falsetto piece, which sounds more like The Darkness than TNT.
The guys are clearly having a laugh of sorts and trying to be different, but for me it doesn't work.
Wild Life is for me the pick of the album. At last we get a pure straight forward rocker, with a nice riff and an old school, gimmick free lead vocal and a good chorus also. It stands head and shoulders above the rest of the album's material.
Unfortunately this straightforwardness doesn't last long. The tricks are back in play on the very next song. The chorus in this case is utterly horrendous.
Fountain of Love features more Darkness inspired, effects filled falsetto vocals totally ruin what potentially could have been a decent mid-tempo ballad.
It only gets worse. Just as the cover of What A Wonderful World killed momentum on All The Way To The Sun, the horrible 50's crooning of June steps in to do the same here - except perhaps the fact that there was no momentum to kill in the first place.
This would sound more at home on a Bobby Darin record. June is a totally ill-conceived idea for a TNT record and has to be this year's biggest WTF moment.
Can't Go On Without returns to the poppy strains of the early part of the record. It is a fairly straight forward, happy go lucky pop rocker with an ok lead vocal from Tony, but again, I'm not sold on the chorus.
2 Seconds Away has it's experimental moments, but largely is a more traditional TNT pop rocker and should hold some appeal for long time fans.
Milestone River is a slow, somewhat psychedelic ballad to close the album. I actually like the feel of this one. The mood and the atmosphere may not appeal to all, but the song does manage to break some boundaries and touch on that Darkness style again, yet this one works.
Let's Party Mills is not a song at all, but rather another annoying spoken word piece that runs 90 seconds and sees Tony Mills run off the album credits in his cockney accent again. This to me is the guys getting fully tanked at the local pub and thinking it was a good idea at the time. Trust me guys – it isn't. One listen and who seriously will listen to it ever again?
I have not enjoyed writing any of this review at all, but I really have struggled with this album.
My Religion was my Album Of The Year for 2004, so I do not want to hear any comments about how I may not dig this band. I love them…but I do not like this record. I doubt I will be in the minority either.
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