Monday, October 01, 2007

Album Review: Ted Nugent's "Love Grenade"

He's back!

Actually, he never went away, but Ted Nugent has just released his first album of new material in five years. For people who know Nuge first and foremost as a rock star, that's the only thing that counts. I've seen his shows on the Outdoor Channel and on VH1, and I've heard the news stories about one outrageous quote after another. That's all well and good, and I agree with much of what he has to say, but what we want to hear from him is some good R&B based heavy rock guitar.

The new album, "Love Grenade", does not disappoint. Age has not slowed down this man who has been performing just a little longer than I have been alive. The title track, which opens the album, comes out charging and kicks you in the balls. The man knows how to pick an opener, I tell you. This song deserves airplay. I can't get the closing chorus ("sex shrapnel, sex shrapnel") out of my head. If you survive this song, you're hooked. You can't turn off the album until the end.

The second track, "Still Raising Hell", digs the hook in deeper. Abandoning the sexual metaphor of "Love Grenade", this barn burner oozes attitude. Great track.

Next up is "Funk U", a funny little ditty that abandons some of the energy of the first two tracks in favor of a bit of playfulness. "Funk U" best translates as an update of the classic "school of hard knocks" cliche. It's loaded with juvenile wordplay, but that's okay. Ted Nugent wouldn't be nearly as entertaining if he went around acting all serious and grown-up all the time. He wouldn't be Ted Nugent!

"Girl Scout Cookies" is a solid hard rocker, but if you're expecting more sexual metaphor as only the Nuge can do it, forget it. I listened to this song about half a dozen times before I decided that this song is actually about the baked goods referred to in the song's title. A clever swerve on Ted's part.

Then we have "Journey To the Center of the Mind", a song that Ted Nugent composed and performed as a member of the Amboy Dukes about forty years ago. The original continues to get frequent airplay on Classic Rock radio, and has popped up from time to time in Ted's live sets. This remake lacks some elements of the original -- no keyboards, for instance -- and is more of a hard rocker than a psychedelic hippie trip. It's not the best song on the album. In fact, it seems a little out of place here. But it's a good tune.

The changing themes of sexual metaphor, attitude, playfulness, cookies and nostalgia give way to four tracks dealing with the half of Ted's life that exists outside of rock music: the spirit of the great outdoors. Ted pays tribute to some inspirational historical figures in "Geronimo and Me", once more placing himself on the side of the Indians against the Cowboys. The chorus is catchy, and the lyrics have a dose of attitude. "Geronimo" segues into instrumental "Eaglebrother", which nearly encourages the listener to grab a set of tom-toms and pound along. Following is "Spirit of the Buffalo", Ted's paean to the majestic beast that once dominated much of the North American continent. Keep those tom-toms handy; you'll need them when the infectious chorus grabs hold of you. "Aborigine" is a declaration of independence. This is not the independence of the American nation; this is about Ted getting close to man's primal state -- again.

No 21st century Ted Nugent album would be complete without a blatant political statement. A declaration of independence in its own right, "Stand" was originally released during the 2004 presidential campaign, making references to lefty politics in general and Democrat nominee John Kerry in particular. The 2007 version eliminates the Kerry references and goes after leftism in general. Mentions of Ted Kennedy and Al Sharpton are retained from the original, because some political memes are timeless. Putting aside the lyrical content, this song just rocks.

"Broadside" just dares you. That's it. It just DARES you. It's also the closest thing to "progressive" music on the disc. Not out of place, but it lacks something.

I thought I was going to hate a track titled "Bridge Over Troubled Daughters", until I heard it. I sighed with relief upon learning that it has nothing to do with Simon & Garfunkel. It's close to filler material, a good sign that the album should be winding down soon.

Finally, "Lay With Me" hearkens back to Ted's blues influences. It's easily the slowest song on the album, but no less heavy than the rest. To me, this is the weakest track on the disc because of the style...all blues songs sound alike to me. The only redeeming quality is that it eases the listener into a state of calmness. It winds you down from a hard and heavy set of rockers.

Overall, I'd say 8.5 out of 10. I hope I have Ted's energy when I'm 58. Heck, I hope I have his energy when I'm 38, and that was two years ago!

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