Oliver Monroe – Power To The Music – Album Review
Finally! Someone who’ll willingly put the power where it belongs! I mean, how many times have we had to endure something that mentions ‘power to the people’ without once having the credit go to where the credit is due…and at the very least, you can tell Oliver Monroe thank-you from me – I’m very interested to hear what happens when we put the power where it belongs – right in the music!
That being said…it’s noticeably hard-rock & guitar-music…which doesn’t always get the easiest ride here at our pages as hard-rock in general is just about the toughest genre to ever standout in. Smartly – Monroe has enlisted some genuine cats from the old-school (BC Sleaze, Tracy G, Tommy Wagner) to help bring the audible vision to life…and to be completely upfront & honest with you all, it really does make quite a bit of difference when listening to an album with its intentions declared. Oliver wants to make an album that reflects the hard-rock & hair-metal era of music…and while I might think he’s straight-up CRAZY for wanting that – let’s not forget that I’d think ANYONE would be crazy to WANT that…so please, don’t hold it against Oliver! I’d think anyone was straight off their rocker to want to revisit the golden-shower era of music…but that’s my own personal opinion and has nothing to do with what you may/may not like about this new record, Power To The Music by Oliver Monroe.
The write-up I’ve got on the album is even amusing. This is the ‘album you wish your favorite 80’s band came out with today, but never does’ – and that right there alone will cue you onto a few things about the music & the record before you even push play. I don’t even have a favorite moment from the 80’s…or not ones that I think I’ve ever publicly acknowledged…and the idea that this kind of album ‘never does’ come out anymore could quite easily work against Monroe rather than work in favor of him. If the sound isn’t a prevalent one in our culture at the current time…there’s quite often a reason for it – but we also know music is a cyclical beast in nature. In that respect…I hate to say it – but Oliver Monroe’s time could very well be right around the corner when he goes to release this album on May 6th. For the record…Oliver seems to be an extremely nice, enthusiastic & well-seasoned musician that has an idea, he’s focused…and I like the guy…so let’s not get confused. What I’m saying is that I’m not exactly looking forward to the idea that hair-metal could be the dominating sounds of society once again – and that I’m not naïve enough to not realize that the shift back towards it is actually happening RIGHT NOW.
You can thank good ol’ Axl Rose for that I believe. The resurgence of hard/hair-rock is going to absolutely spike over the course of the next year with Guns N’ Roses back in action…and now with Axl taking the microphone duties for AC/DC…I mean…for those about to rock anyone? We’re ALL about to rock – whether we like it or not…for at least a couple of years – so be ready, you’ve been warned.
In terms of quality and his new album Power To The Music – any issues I might have had with Oliver’s record get sorted out quite quickly. If it was all mixed like the opening track “Don’t Waste Your Time” – I’d have major concerns. Although the chorus of “Don’t Waste Your Time” peeks through the crunch of the guitars and blazing-rock just enough to be able to hear it – well…that’s the chorus…where you’d expect things to ramp-up in energy. “Don’t Waste Your Time” does that really well – but it’s damn near completely forgotten that it’s got a verse as well. Oliver is so massively hidden throughout the verse of his opening tune that I wasn’t quite sure if that would be the sound he was going for or not at first. I like my music BIG…and getting those vocals set deep into the music can often achieve that effect…but losing them entirely is another story and Oliver quickly finds himself enveloped in guitars throughout the verse before he gets the energy up in the chorus enough to break through. Again…if I thought this was the staple of the sound coming at me for the rest of the record, I’d be more worried – but Oliver quickly breaks out of any issues here once the opening track completes. Still a good song, still well-played and I’m seriously doubting you’ll hear a track go by where you don’t notice the crunch of the guitars…but overall it shot just wide of the mark in terms of what we hear as listeners on “Don’t Waste Your Time.”
“Wasted White Boy” also features Tracy G on guitar…and you can hear the traditional hard-rock crunch all over this song. Possibly due to his influence…Tracy G goes on to be featured on half of the record – but I think it’s pretty safe to say that this is the music that Oliver Monroe knows, loves and is more that fine to make on his own too – I just think he’s a little more comfortable with some friends around like the rest of us are! “Wasted White Boy” is the hard-rock anthem that you’d kind of expect on an album that seeks to recreate a lot of that era and sound…it’s what you’d call the ol’ fist-pumper. You’ll see it in the crowd I’m sure when you see Oliver Monroe live onstage this year – you’ll see the metal & meatheads of the audience waving those fists in the air to “Wasted White Boy.” If not – you’ll definitely see them in the air when Monroe invites it to happen directly in the following track “Yeah Yeah.”
“Yeah Yeah” is the first track that I noticed in the credits, strips back to just Oliver. I believe it might have the other two musicians featured…Tommy Wagner on the drums and perhaps still BC Sleaze…they’re both on this record in the writing, but my notes really only reflect where the infamous Ex-Dio member Tracy G shows up…so to be truthful, I can’t be sure if he’s completely alone on “Yeah Yeah.” What I can tell you…is that the notable absence of Tracy G actually seemed to work heavily in his favor on “Yeah Yeah” – I thought of the first three tracks you’ll hear, that’s easily the best of the bunch. A little lighter…a lot more rhythmic and melodic…I dunno…I thought “Yeah Yeah” actually worked out pretty damn well all the way through and had some truly stunning definition to the guitar grooves and riffs, especially in its opening moments. Good rhythm in the vocal-flow as well…I’d have to assume he’s found what could potentially be a single here on “Yeah Yeah.”
Again…Monroe has declared his intentions to bring back the hair-metal/hard-rock sounds here…or to recreate them here in the modern-day. He knows that “Yeah Yeah” isn’t reinventing the wheel of rock…and for people like myself that are happy to be past the stone-age, knuckle-dragging era of meathead-rock that bringing us back there is bound to make our minds implode. The title-track, “Power To The Music” is just about the last song I’m looking for on my playlist at any given time…and that makes for a tough, tough listening experience. Has he recreated the sound he’s looking for? Perfectly. Does that mean I’m going to enjoy it? Probably not personally, no – and that’s the case entirely for the title-track here. “Power To The Music” kind of plods-along and the energy that’s implied by the words is not energy echoed throughout the music – which kind of makes for an oddly uneven listening experience. It seems like the punched-up dynamics are slightly missing here on “Power To The Music” and where it should make you want to get up and move, kind of makes you want to sit down & just listen instead. I’m not sure if there will be as much dancing happening as the words imply…but I could be wrong.
Again – I could be straight-up in the minority for EVERYTHING I’ve said so far. With hard-rock back on the rise and Axl collecting the mob-money again – maybe I’m the one who’s out to lunch here. I do appreciate the playing and musicianship of this record – and those dynamics that I felt like were missing from “Power To The Music” I felt came roaring back perfectly on “Break The Law.” Certainly one of my own favorite tunes on this record – I thought the focus on “Break The Law” makes a noticeable shift towards a powerful hook in the chorus that really keeps this one both groovin’ & rockin’ throughout. There’s a slight addition of piano that makes all the difference in the world here on “Break The Law” – and overall, complete with its shredder-style guitar-solos and quick breakdown – he’s packed a ton into just-over three minutes here and come out with a track that has a lot of crossover appeal here in the middle of the record.
Power To The Music shifts deadly into the menacing sound of “They Keep Their Eye On You” – and in my humble-reviewer’s opinion – Oliver Monroe has completely found his groove right here in the middle of the record with “Break The Law” and this tune back-to-back. There’s a ton of strength you’ll find in the middle of this record – and I think if anything, shows that Oliver is still finding ways to innovate the sound he loves here in the present. I really dig the heavily defined guitar-parts of “They Keep Their Eye On You” and its atmosphere on the whole – it could quite easily be one of my favorites on this record. Finding his way a little closer to the beginnings of the grunge-era…this song could very easily have ended up on Alice In Chains’ Facelift record, which borrowed just as much from the hair-metal and hard-rock scene as it did pave the way for grunge to follow. Solid ideas are executed perfectly on “They Keep Their Eye On You” – and in my opinion, the middle of this album reveals the real strengths and highlights of Oliver’s writing.
I thought the pounding of the drums in “Motherfucker” might be the star of that song for me…otherwise largely, that’s a song that almost feels catered to the hard-rock crowd. Will there be massive chanting of “Motherfucker” back at Oliver from the crowd as they sing along to this one? HELL YES. It’s made for that. I’m not so sure there’s a ton of appeal outside of the obvious on this track however…”Motherfucker” felt like another one from Oliver that just slightly missed its overall ambitions…but truthfully very slightly. I think there’s still a little salt or pepper needed to spice this one up just a little…but I think he’s found a crowd-pleaser for sure easily with “Motherfucker.”
But WHAT Oliver…WHAT am I supposed to do when you put such flavor around a track like “Motherfucker” and surround it with what are probably my two favorites on the entire record. “Motherfucker” has it motherfuckin’ hard-UP if you ask me when it comes to placement on this album; I think it would have been tough to compete with coming out of “They Keep Their Eye On You” to begin with – but the rhythm & groove added into “Don’t Love Me” also creates another highlight on the record quickly that outshines the anthem of “Motherfucker.” So…give that song some motherfuckin’ slack will ya? The odds are clearly motherfuckin’ stacked against “Motherfucker” but it STILL got two whole motherfuckin’ paragraphs from me – so give it a second & third listen will ya?
I can’t help liking what I like about music any more than you can…I just know how to motherfuckin’ word what I feel about it, that’s all. Can’t you tell?
“Don’t Love Me” has an awesome grind of the guitars though – more highlight drumming…and to be quite honest – a superb ending. Not just talking about the super-quiet, stripped back final minute, but the moments before it also reveal some deadly chops and stuttered timings…”Don’t Love Me” has quite a bit to offer and I really did appreciate the way this song progresses right to its unique ending. The quietness and innocence of those final moments lead right into the most-tender & gentle spot on Oliver’s record, “Hey You.”
Now…he’s gonna HATE ME for saying this…but this is completely a sound that works for him. He’ll hate me for saying it, cause it’s pretty much the only song on this record that remotely slows down and finds itself in the ballad-zone for even a moment – and this song stays in that vein throughout its duration. It’s sonically radically different than everything else we’ve heard on the record so far…and I have to be careful because loving it too much can imply that the rest isn’t worth your time, which isn’t necessarily how I feel. I’d be lying to you if I said this doesn’t absolutely work all the way through – I’d be lying if I didn’t point out that the melody, rhythms and tones are more realized and audible than ever on “Hey You” – so it’s a fine-line I have to walk. In short…I think that “Hey You” is so completely impressive that it would certainly be an indication of a direction that I’d think Oliver should examine in the future…but there’d also be no greater hell on earth than being the guy that wants to rock, but creates ballads with more strength and passion. I think he’s done well in both his modes…but it’s hard to deny that this first massive shift in sound on Power To The Music really makes that impact, because it certainly does. “Hey You” is a fantastic song.
I also really think that…when you head all the way back to “Break The Law” that you’ll hear that shift in the songwriting as well. Inarguably, I think the entire album begins to head into some excellent sonic-terrain from this point forward and that it’s something you can quite easily hear in the record. Up until “Break The Law” – the album had moments of victory…but I think each song afterwards (except maybe “Motherfucker” but we’ve already been motherfuckin’ over that!) shows Monroe in the best of lights and really starts to find its legs from the middle on-forward. With perhaps the best blend of ballad & rock happening in the final track “You Make It” – I think he’s done a great job of really bringing out his best here at the end and made another memorable moment out of this album’s ending. “You Make It” has great vocals and solid-writing…great performances and execution on its ideas and makes for a true moment of impact here at the end of Power To The Music.
I have no idea if my old podcasting homeboy Ryan @ SBS still reads anything I do or if my leaving BC meant he’s abandoned the site all together…we don’t talk anymore it seems…but if he’s still out there somewhere – brother, this album is ALL you! We must have talked hard-rock and metal more than most people I’ve had the pleasure to talk to over the past couple years…and I can absolutely say without a doubt in my mind that this is the kind of album that he’s been looking for. JUST like Monroe had mentioned right? ‘The album you wish your favorite 80’s band came out with today, but never does.’
Well Ryan…this one’s for you brother…and for another that shares that sentiment. There are a TON of you traditional hard-rockers out there that would LOVE this record – we all know you’re out there. If you want MORE of it, be sure to get out there and support it this year as hard-rock makes its resurgence and really communicate that the music you love is the music you want to hear by supporting it however best you can. Go to shows…buy some shirts…get involved “Motherfucker” and shout-out your power-anthems with your fists pumping wildly through the air. That’s what this kind of music is all about – and Oliver Monroe certainly fits in with the entire world of hard-rock with an album stocked full of the traditional sounds and styles you love, executed fully with real respect for the sound, era and genre overall.
Power To The Music is officially released worldwide as of May 6th 2016 – be ready! Find out more from Oliver’s official FB page here: www.facebook.com/13.six.monroe