Winger are one of the few bands from the ‘big hair’ era of the late 1980s/early 1990s to have survived not only with their reputation still intact but also their integrity in terms of their viability as a relevant and vibrant rock act in the second decade of the 21st century.
While most of their contemporaries have been content to survive and rest their laurels on past glories, playing tribute shows and all-star ‘rock cruises’, Winger continue to attempt to justify their ongoing presence in the world of modern rock ‘n’ roll by producing new material at an albeit intermittent rate (this is only their sixth studio album and their third since their ‘official’ reunion in 2006).
The problem with this latest offering is that it is as intermittent as their recorded output: indeed, it could be compared to some recent football matches – good in the first third/half and then playing safe once the result has been more or less assured. Indeed, to paraphrase a certain football pundit of yore, this is very much an album of two halves… except it doesn’t even reach half time without the referee sending the players for an early shower.
Proceedings start well with the lively (and suitably retrospecitvely titled) ‘Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine’, which is suitably sleazy and tongue-in-cheek, while ‘Queen Babylon’ bumps and grinds around Reb Beach’s mean and dirty main riff. Lead single ‘Rat Race’ is a hard driving classic rock song, with a phantasmagorical solo from Beach and a superbly gritty lead vocal from Winger himself.
However, it’s all down hill from there… the title track, for example, is coldly kitsch and, with one or two exceptions – such as the mildly interesting progressive funk vibe of ‘Tin Soldier’ – the second two thirds of the album is laboured, and even boring in places: the ‘big ballad’ that is ‘Ever Wonder’ just fails on every level, while the slightly psychedelic ‘Be Who You Are, Now’ disappears up its own arse within seconds, and closer ‘Out Of The World’ just wants to make the listener get out of there…
The main complaint with this album is its mish-mash of styles: if the band had stuck to what they did best a little over 20-odd years ago and produced a collection of decent, hard-edged melodic rock songs, interspersed with the odd attitudinal power ballad, then they might have had a decent follow-up to the excellent ‘Karma’ album of five years past… as it is, this is a hugely disappointing offering from a group of musicians who are most definitely capable of delivering so much more.
Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine / Queen Babylon / Rat Race / Better Days Comin’ / Tin Solider / Ever Wonder / So Long China / Storm In Me / Be Who You Are, Now / Out Of This World
Recommended listening: ‘Rat Race’
Better Days Comin’ is out now on Frontiers Records.
Winger play Download on Sunday June 15 and then undertake a short run of headline shows:
Tuesday June 17 – Glasgow, O2 ABC Academy
Wednesday June 18 – Newcastle, O2 Academy
Friday June 20 – Bristol, O2 Academy
Saturday June 21 – London, O2 Academy