By Pat Prince
The Stone Foxes’ new album “Bears & Bulls” is as mixed of a bag as the title suggests. Half of the songs are exciting, bluesy, balls-to-the-wall rockers; the other half … too anthemic, too typical, and some of them too eager to please the current trend of hard rock commercialism.
“Young Man” and “Hyde & Pine” are both good examples of simply brilliant rockers, standout tracks. Both are the true essence of ‘ballsy.’ And “Hangman” is great garage rock blues, with a damaging harp throughout. You can’t help but love it. And it hints at what made the White Stripes so popular.
“Reno” is another example of the good side of this album’s equation. With its scratchy guitar riff and kick-ass mentality and quirky lyrics. And, on a smaller note, it’s quite nice to finally hear a good song written about Reno, rather than its bigger brother, Las Vegas.
At times, the Stone Foxes will become somewhat cliche when they are trying to be witty, as in “I Killed Robert Johnson.” It’s all been done before, yes, but there’s nothing special about it here. In turn, the band handles Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster” as an interesting take on a well-traveled oldie. And the well-hyped album opener, “Stomp,” has good elements of guitar picking and harmonica wailing in it, but it ends up being more of a below-average Ram Jam.
Then the bad side: it’s where The Stone Foxes lose their personality. “Patience” sounds like it is straight from a late ’80s hair band. And not in a good way. “Passenger Train” is something you’d hear from a band like Train. Too commercial. too melodically sweet and too sentimental for this band.
“Bears & Bulls” will be available in stores on July 6. I like to preach the purchase of full albums, but in the case of “Bears & Bulls,” you might want to buy only half the album at iTunes. The album will be released early via iTunes on June 29.
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