SCORE - 100%
Perfect. Songs From The End Of The World is a masterpiece. Not just for Rick Springfield fans, but for anyone that can identify with wonderfully crafted modern melodic rock; emotional and energetic power pop; and brilliantly produced music that features layers upon layers of intricately mixed instruments and vocals.
I just can’t fault this album. Some will suggest that’s no real surprise, but despite my dedicated RS fanboy status, in 16 years of covering all Rick’s releases, I am yet to award a perfect score. That’s because I hold Rick at an impossibly high standard based on so many classic albums over the years and I can normally find one or two ways I wish things were a little different.
Karma came close at 99, Shock Denial Anger Acceptance a 93, Sahara Snow scored an 85 and The Day After Yesterday only managed a 73. As you can see, that’s a pretty unbiased set of numbers. But no holding back this time. This album delivers in so many ways and finally lives up to my always high expectations in every department.
I never reviewed Venus In Overdrive formally, as I was the one that signed Rick for the European release with the label I was working A&R for at the time. But it was an absolutely superb album of course and some of the songs within were all-time classics as far as Rick is concerned. The writing partnership with Matt Bissonette really brought the best out in both writers. The album’s first half was absolutely perfect and it was only a couple of ‘left-turns’ on the second half that I think hindered the album’s flow and direction. I would have given it a 95.
No such concerns with Songs From The End Of The World. This is a track for track masterpiece that despite being somewhat diverse still stays on the same musical track throughout.
And as usual, all the trademark Rick Springfield quirks are in play – short choruses followed by longer ones further into the song; out of nowhere bridge diversions; hands in the air sing-along parts and incredibly intelligent and complex song structures on top of deeply thought out lyrics that as always; delve deep into Rick’s psyche.
Karma was an album of personal discovery and reawakening. SDAA was largely an album of angry, bitter songs sung with aggression and resentment. Venus In Overdrive was an album of reflection, which has segued into this new album – which as usual lays bare some of Rick’s personal demons – but this time it is presented in an almost upbeat fashion – as if Rick has come to terms with his life and what it entails and accepts that it is what it is. And these songs are the result.
With an immediately hard hitting riff, Wide Awake is our first taste of Rick as a 63 year old artist existing in 2012. He makes a mockery of his age with a song (and a whole album) of spirited songs oozing energy that some 20 year old kids would have a hard time keeping up with. This song is a bombastic modern hard rocker with layers and layers of music and vocals – and that’s just the verse. The chorus explodes and delivers at least another 2 or 3 layers of guitar parts plus some keyboards. It’s simply immense and his most upbeat intro track since Perfect (2004), Calling All Girls (1982) and Love Is Alright Tonite (1981).
Our Ship’s Sinking defies words. But I’ll try… The intro guitar riff might suggest that it’s 1981 again, but the massive wall of sound says 2012 is here and now. What follows is a brilliant verse vocal that literally explodes into a massive chorus that just gets bigger and better every listen. Then throw in the additional bridge and the whoa, whoa sing-along harmonies and more choruses and it’s simply melodic rock bliss. Words cannot explain how much I love this track.
“If I’m the one that caused your shipwrecked life, then hold my hand right to the fire….” Wow. Rick’s best rock anthem ever?
I Hate Myself is this album’s trademark commercial, big chorus sing-along single. Venus In Overdrive had What’s Victoria’s Secret and SDAA had Will I? Despite the title, I Hate Myself is fun fun fun and the chorus is again a perfect wall of sound with Matt Bissonette’s bass playing in the fore.
You And Me is the album’s big ballad, but even then it rolls along at a pretty decent rate. This is a musically lush modern rock ballad, contrasted by a raw lead vocal until the chorus comes, when things get multi-layered once again and Rick takes on some falsetto harmonies. It would fit alongside One Passenger from VIO nicely.
Gabriel (as in the arc angel) is yet another amazing track, sentimental and emotional and features a vocal that fans of 70s Rick might find familiar. It’s a real throw back to Wait For Night on the verse and the heavy use of acoustic guitars. It is a ballad in sentiment, but quite uptempo overall. The chorus and rest of the song is again layered with acoustic and electric guitars and features a short guitar solo in there too.
A Sign of Life reminds me of I’ll Miss That Someday mixed with Time Stands Still, both from VIO. A thoroughly catchy and melodic modern rocker that is heavier, faster than both previous songs and features an even bigger pop anthem chorus that is as instant as it is complex.
My Last Heartbeat is an effects filled super complex heavy modern rocker with a darker vibe and intent through the verse which is then totally swept away by an ultra-commercial multi-layered anthemic chorus before turning modern again. Complex and wonderful at the same time!
Joshua (this time named after Rick’s son) is the perfect contrast to My Last Heartbeat – a fast paced happy go lucky pop/rockers with a message with a sentimental heart. Typical Rick chorus/bridge/anthem chorus formula.
Love Screws Me Up is a modernized and rocked up version of the Karma offcut that was included in the SDAA Limited Edition (in demo form). The reworking done here is true to the original, but it’s totally made over to fit the style of the rest of the tracks and the multi-layered instrumentation. It fits into the album perfectly and is yet another uptempo sing-along anthem.
I Found You is another truly original and amazing track for Rick. It has the darkness of 3 Warning Shots from VIO, but an even moodier balladesque delivery. Just when you think it’s all dark and questioning lyrically, the chorus blooms with a message of love and dedication in a very commercial hook.
Depravity is another really interesting track – very modern and quite heavy and follows on from the very modern stylings of I Found You, but more uptempo. Super intense, but with another (dark) catchy chorus.
One Way Street is another wow moment for me. This is yet another career highlight as far as I’m concerned for Rick. With the flowing urgency of Bob Seger’s Hollywood Nights and the brooding lyrical intensity of World Start Turning from Rock Of Life, this could almost be Rick’s sequel to that iconic track. The chorus is a complete 180 from the verse, with its modern pop beat and 60s guitar riff underneath, which is followed by yet another hey-hey sing-along passage. Glorious guitar playing, huge chorus and follow-up bridge, plus some inspired lyrics. And the closing minute twenty is just all anthem.
Let Me In is a really beautiful sentimental ballad with acoustic guitars and keyboards the driving forces behind the song. It has the same emotional vibe as I Found You and You And Me and is well worth finding. Astute fans will recognize the keyboard sound from within the Karma record.
My DUI is a very odd track that takes a few listens to appreciate. It has a groovy hard beat and some intense pissed off lyrics. It has a certain Living In Oz vibe to it believe it or not (the title track to the 1983 album), but thoroughly modernized and filled with effects. The very simple chorus goes from odd to cool after a few listens! And the police siren is back from 3 Warning Shots!
The Bug is almost not a song, clocking in at just 2 minutes precisely. But it’s amazing how much music can be fit into those 2 minutes. This is a super heavy and tuned down uptempo modern rocker, and it still manages a catchy chorus, even if it’s only several seconds long!
I Hate Myself (Acoustic) is just what it says on the tin, a stripped back version with a raw vocal and more emphasis on the submitted fan sung chorus hook. I like. Nice contrast to the original version.
Perfect. For me at least and I hope the majority of Rick fans will agree. The production quality on this record really puts into perspective some other records that I have praised for sounding great (which they still do) – it’s just that this album is so sonically amazing, it takes me back to the glory days when every record had a big kick ass budget and always sounded worth a million bucks. Even then this album would give them a run for their money.
Top that with some wonderful songs and the usual personal lyrical approach you’ve come to expect from Rick and equally impressive contributions from all musicians involved (drummer Rodger Carter and Bassist Matt Bissonette in particular) and you get a well-rounded, engaging, energetic album that as a lifelong fan of Rick’s…I just cannot fault.