Writing the review for Santa Cruz’s third long player has left me in a bit of a juxtaposition in a kind of do I mention it or not way. It all revolves around the lead single of the new album “River Phoenix” and in particular the lyrics to the chorus:
We going down
Like River Phoenix
We are the ones that you can not restrain
It’s now we hit the ground!
Like River Phoenix
to rise up from this ashes once again
Like River Phoenix!
The trouble with these lyrics is that on first listen they come across as very jarring which is a shame as the song itself is a pretty catchy hard rock song that should stand up in its own right. But for me, using the imagery of a 23-year-old man dying of a drug overdose on a LA pavement as part of that catchy chorus does not sit right. Unsure whether I was just being an old man, aware of my and others mortality or whether the band were just using this imagery to gain attention; in which case it has worked and do I hate myself a little to be even discussing it? Probably. Or whether it was just poor imagery without thought; I opened this up to discussion within the Moshville Times Crew and found I was not alone in thinking this. The general consensus went from distasteful to it does not even make sense to actually I think it was intended as a play on words of Phoenix rising. This latter explanation would fit in with the band’s own image of themselves and the position that they currently find themselves in.
Santa Cruz despite the name are from Finland but the sound is very west coast US 80s and in some areas, they have been lauded as the new Guns N’ Roses. For this third album, they have a fresh new sound, a new record label and the band see themselves as literally a new band reborn.
So, awkward lyrics apart what of the album? Can they live up to the hype that they are trying to surround themselves with? The answer is definitely a yes and also a maybe. On the one hand this new sound is big, it’s bold, it’s full of youthful arrogance and enthusiasm; it will slap you in the face and make you want to jump up and down. But on the other hand, it’s not entirely reinventing the wheel and at times can sound a little tired and clichéd but what it does show is promise. I realise that sounds like an odd statement to be making when it is their third album but I believe there is still plenty more to come from Santa Cruz and there are a lot of hints that they could make it as big as their projected egos. Take album opener “Young Blood Rising”, it’s a pretty good rock song, it has attitude it has catchy choruses. Nothing new but somehow, they still manage to get under your skin and after a few listens you are entirely on board with their brand of rock.
The album on the whole is good listen and is firmly in the ‘put on before you go out’ category. There are moments on the album that really stand out and again at times the sound might be borrowed but Santa Cruz have absolute belief in themselves. I am not surprised it is when those egos are pulled in a bit they really shine. On “Drag Me Out of The Darkness” there is a vulnerability that allows you to gain a different perspective of the band. Still catchy but a new level of emotion that really works for them. Add into this the guitar solo and this a standout song.
“Breathe” is going to draw absolute comparisons to Gun N’ Roses “Patience” with it similar whistle but if you can ignore the borrowed references and listen to the heart of the song then it’s perfect in almost every way. Lyrically it’s above the rockier tracks, more work and thought appears to have been put into them and it’s a song you will come back to again and again. Another of the standout tracks is also their slower track “Get Me Out of California”. I am not suggesting this is all they can do, far from it but they do this type of song very well. It is almost as if they know that they have to put all their energies into the sort of song that you will stop and listen to, again the guitar solo is just sublime.
There are other good songs on the album like “Voice of the New Generation” that really rock, there is just a level and variety of songs perhaps missing to take it to the level they clearly are aiming for. Most of the songs stand out alone but together it lacks a coherent organic feel. They are a step away and this is an album you will enjoy.
In conclusion, this is a band that have obvious musical and song writing talent and as a result you get a pretty good album but it is their absolute self-belief that raises the album to a level and I truly believe that if they can get the balance right between their exuberance and this songwriting and avoiding the nit picking of dubious analogies they really could become a great band that can stand along those they partly emulate.
Bad Blood Rising is out now