Who would've thought that cock-rock could exist in 2006? By the end of the '90s, the once dominant genre was edged out by grunge and other, more extreme forms of metal. Well, hair-and-histrionics are making a comeback. Enter Burlington's Lightning Ridge.
The trio is gaining popularity among those too young to remember cheese-metal's heyday. Perhaps they'll enjoy the band's new disc, Watch for Falling Rock. It's hard to say who else will. Bandleader Ethan Ryea aims for the soaring heights of hard rock's greatest front men, but mostly falls short. He's got less than pitch-perfect vocals, and his guitar playing is both overactive and unfocused.
The disc kicks off with one of its strongest cuts, the ribald rocker "Rainy Day." Featuring thunderous drumming from John Elwert and Ren Beann's slippery bass, the tune has oomph. It's also got a solid hook, which many other cuts lack.
"Up Against a Wall" is a call to arms to disenfranchised heshers. "Turn it on, Turn it on, my friend / Live your life," Ryea encourages. The passion is there. The notes, unfortunately, are not.
LR try their hand at power-balladry with "Phone Chords," an earnest, if ridiculous, piece of hard-rock puffery. "Holding on to the receiver with the grasp of a beginner's hand / While the pendulum swings across the strings of my heart," Ryea croons over faux-Zeppelin licks. Those lyrics might read better carved into a study hall desk.
"Green Magic" opens with a spate of two-hand tapping, the axe technique pioneered by Eddie Van Halen and imitated by countless fret fiends. The tune's central guitar part sounds like a Tony Iommi riff from a Dio-era Black Sabbath LP. I'll hold up the devil's horns for that.
The band scores points for bombast with the hilarious "Places Beneath the Earth." Supported by one of the disc's finest riffs, Ryea sings of subterranean doom. "There are places beneath the earth that man shall never go / From which the rolling thunder roars and brings you to your knees," he belts. Not the kind of place to buy a time-share.
"Existence: what exactly does it mean?" Ryea asks in the epic "From the Sky." I'm guessing the answer involves fog machines.
Ultimately, Watch sounds like a barroom joke you've heard far too many times. Which isn't to say it isn't occasionally funny -- it just might take a lot of booze to laugh. Drink up at the CD release party on Saturday, May 13, at Nectar's.