by John M. Borack
I didn't want to let any more time pass without mentioning the latest release from Gin Blossoms, which seemed to slip past many folks without much fanfare last year. It's a real corker, though, so if you're a fan of meat and potatoes pop with no frills and melodies and guitars galore, dive in.
During their heyday in the early-to-mid ‘90s, the Gin Blossoms were all about the radio readiness, churning out a number of sparkling guitar-pop gems with uber-catchy choruses such as “Allison Road,” “Hey Jealousy” and “Til I Hear it From You,” to name a few. Not long after the untimely death of their main songwriter Doug Hopkins in 1993, the band hit a relatively fallow period both commercially and creatively, which was followed by a sabbatical. But on the surprisingly wonderful No Chocolate Cake (their first album of new material in four years), the Gin Blossoms are back and firing on all sixes.
A few of the songs on the 11-track album find the Gin Blossoms collaborating with songwriter Danny Wilde (The Rembrandts) and most everything here finds the band sonically revisiting their glory days. “Somewhere Tonight” is a warm and jangly mid-tempo number in the grand tradition of “Til I Hear it From You,” while irresistible rockers such as “Don’t Change For Me” and “I’m Ready” (featuring the catchiest of catchy choruses) are as good as anything they’ve ever done. The addition of horns on the kicky ode to a travelin’ band, “Dead or Alive on the 405,” is a nice touch, while the lyrics humorously name check Styx, Ronnie Spector, Eddie Money and “Mustang Sally.”
In addition to the more upbeat tunes, the wistful “I Don’t Want to Lose You Now” (which recalls Hard Promises-era Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), the regret-tinged “Wave Bye Bye” and the sad-yet-hopeful “Something Real” also find the band in peak form. Throughout No Chocolate Cake, the songs are inviting, the guitars ring, the harmonies and backing vocals are spot on and the band in general sounds completely re-energized. A welcome return to be sure. (Available from www.429records.com)