When you’re young and you have recently discovered vulgarity, you jump at any chance to exclaim swift and stern judgments concerned with taste in popular culture. Like Cartman in South Park who, during an episode modeled after Lord of the Rings, asks another group of kids, “What are you guys playing?” your lack of nuance is a source of endless humor. When they respond, “Harry Potter,” without missing a beat, Cartman says, “Ha! Fags,” a moment that the twelve year in all of us relates to. In a country that allows its young to grow up at leisurely pace compared to the rest of the world, a lot of these habits stick around long after the typical years of adolescence. That being said, it’s tempting to say “Northern Lights sucks,” but I will try, rather, to provide a more complex description of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ album.
Gentlemen Prefer Lights’ vocals are more preening than passionate, with a parade of lyrics that you’ve heard before. A few examples of this: “Oh, death ya came knockin’ at my-ee door,” “Slipping through a new dimension,” or “So, great destroyer take me home.” Death, no matter in what fashion it attempts it’s grisly task, always seems to be bothering hard rock bands. But they shouldn’t be too worried. It is, after all, the great equalizer. On the last track, “Love (Off the Floor),” in which they remind us that love is the solution (a line, overdone as it may be, that I must say I enjoyed), a gnarly drum solo catapults into an aggressive, bluesy jam that is the most impressive moment on the album. On this last song the band shows that they have some gusto. Too much Mountain Dew isn’t good for you, and while the rest of the album may be the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon filled with the energy-boosting soft drink, the ending of the final track suggests that, sometimes, something that is bad for you can be really good.
But the real failure (No, it’s not just that they “suck”) is that all of these songs sound as though they’ve been done before and, at least for this writer, it wasn’t an interesting sound to begin with. They sound like an Audioslave cover band that decided they could be better than Audioslave since, of course, supergroups never work. Who would’ve ever guessed that Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Tom Petty playing music together would sound so boring? And just as the clash of too many egos makes for dull, convoluted tunes, trying to imitate such quixotic efforts fares no better.