Million Dollar Beggars feeds off the glory days of 80’s hard rock and heavy metal – sleazy lyrics, cocky rock attitude, corny artist names and kerosene-dipped songwriting – the newcomer band has all the elements one could expect from a proper hair metal band a couple and a half decades ago. The band acknowledges this, and even their promotional material starts off by conjuring up images of mid 80’s decadent Sunset Strip of Los Angeles and “the time rock was bigger than Reagan”. Point taken – a dose of Mötley Crüe revisited up for grabs, eh? Well why not, a good dose of sleaze ‘n grease never hurt anybody!
Though towards the end of eighties the amount of all too similar glitz metal bands became eventually too big to provide anything better than what had already been done and all but choked on it’s own grandioseness there was a whole lot of great music done within the genre. In 2008 one could expect a new inventive band coming up with some fresh material could very well rejuvenate some of the best moments of the 80’s californian metal. In that respect, Million Dollar Beggars has a throughly trodden, yet potentially fertile ground to harvest from.
But why then play too safe? Because that’s what Million Dollar Beggars does here. The band gels together like a well-oiled machine, and the fact that the members are proven professionals shows in skilled musicianship. The production is top-notch, and stands head and shoulders above their 80’s paragons. The songs are full of sharp riffs, huge choruses and recognizable stadium metal flair. On the surface, everything is right in order.
The problem is, it’s all been done before and many times much better. The formulas Million Dollar Beggars use are for the most part just those few inches too basic and predictable and thus don’t blow any fresh charge into the old genre. Good examples are heard straight off the start of the album as album’s title track and the follower ‘(I Forgot To) Die At 27’ rattle on; the playing is tight, the band on strong drive. There are some nifty melodies, catchy choruses and the eighties feel is well provided. But when the songs end they dissappear from the listener’s head like a vapour of hot air. I was hoping multiple listens would help the situation, but even after a good ten or so spins, most of the songs still fail to obtain any staying power. A shame, really, because as musicians the band is obviously very talented – much better than many of the more famous counterparts in fact. The case just happen to be that in this sort of music you just need the songs to be good – average just won’t really cut it, as the history is so full of many other bands and albums to pick better material from.
But although many of the songs fail to leave a lasting impression there are strong moments as well. The third song of the album, ‘Stories…’ again has a very familiar recipe behind it, but this time something just clicks the right way and the trick works. The skilled playing of the band and singer Micko Hell’s strong performance load the track with suitable emotion and make it one of the album’s highlights. A true stadium-anthem that would’ve made Bon Jovi fans back in the day piss golden nuggets. ‘Breaking The Rules’ towards the end of the album drags a little with it’s sighing backing vocals, but delights with it’s nice riffs and rough chorus. Semi-acoustic ‘Understand’ is as good a power-ballad as most of the ‘ok’ ones written in the eighties. The rest of the songs fall into the aforementioned category of being too generic, too predictable or plainly too boring. Some more than others though, and many of the songs are still enjoyable in the ‘ok way’. Only song ‘Delirium’ is a truly bad one, as it takes the generic disease of the album farthest, once and for all destroying itself with some of the most clichéd lyrics I’ve heard in a while, starting with a chorus stolen straight from Ozzy classic ‘Suicide Solution’… awwk…
Quite surprisingly, amongst all the very familiar sounding material, Million Dollar Beggars pulls an unexpected ace from the sleeve with album’s track number seven ‘No One Will Love You In The End’. For once the band has spiced the old 80’s style with some new seasoning, throwing some more latter day sounding hard rock into the mix, resulting into an addictive, beautiful and downright impressive ballad. Maybe the song’s a bit too modern sounding to fit the aimed 80’s feel but that hardly matters since the song works – using the glam rock elements with a more unique twist. Too bad the effect didn’t spread to the other songs of the album, but as it is, ‘No One Will Love You In The End’ turned out as one of the best individual tracks I’ve heard the whole year.
Million Dollar Beggars is a talented bunch of musicians and their self titled album is a succesful effort to make an album sound like it’s from the mid-80’s with 2008’s production. However, for the future their songwriting needs a couple of notches more personality and variety. As such, I think the people who will get the most out of the Million Dollar Beggars album might well be those who aren’t too familiar with their style of music. For them the album could well be a very pleasant investment. And since it’s notoriously difficult find a record store with rare old stuff like Bangalore Choir, Baton Rouge or Sven Gali nowadays, it’s a good thing to be able to pick up the Million Dollar Beggars CD from the record store. For more seasoned fans of american hard rock, the servings might be too cold and too many times chewed over, but it could still get the worst hankering of 80’s hard rock satisfied.
1. Million Dollar Beggars
2. (I Forgot To) Die At 27
4. Gone With The Flow
7. No One Will Love You In The End
8. Breaking The Rules
10. Fullspeed Or Nothing