Buckcherry: Time Bomb

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Buckcherry

Album: Time Bomb
Label: Dreamworks

Buckcherry enjoyed an amazing run of good luck during a late-'90s commercial rise that culminated in "Lit Up," a swaggering hit homage to cocaine. The L.A. band's raunchy, giddily excessive hard rock straddled the thin line separating '70s Aerosmithian debauchery from '80s Poisonian hedonistic cheese, but came at a time when either seemed refreshing compared to humorless grunge and joyless new-metal. Consequently, Buckcherry's resolutely juvenile act—nothing but unironic sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, tattoos, and guitar solos—could be defended by critics as a canny throwback that somehow transcended the cartoony theatrics of its hair-metal predecessors/brethren. With Time Bomb, Buckcherry still makes the unfashionable seem fashionable, but that doesn't make it any less dumb. The title track pretty much says it all: "Nothing to lose, nothing for free / Can't stop now, I got bitches and money." The song is an anthemic speedball that's typical of the raunchy, retarded material that dominates Time Bomb's first half, but once Buckcherry arrives at "Underneath" midway through, it's clear just how savvy this stuff is. That track and "Slit My Wrists" are surprisingly nuanced, slowing the pace while injecting a bit of subtlety that's nothing if not commercially accessible. The calculated would-be hits that arrive late in the album are almost jarring by comparison to the balls-out rock that opens Time Bomb: "You" is a mortal lock to be the first pure power ballad (complete with guitar solo) to top the charts since Candlebox's execrable "Far Behind." But it's a radical improvement on the model, and drastically superior to the unlisted insurance ballad that closes the album just in case. But where Buckcherry goes out of its way to ensure its bawdy act's continued success, another overheated rock band seems to possess almost the opposite instincts. Toadies, which scored a left-field hit in 1995 with the abrasively rocking "Possum Kingdom," waited an astounding six years to release a follow-up. After hundreds of one-hit ponies have come and gone, who remembers the Toadies? The Texas group isn't exactly knocking at immortality's door with Hell Below / Stars Above, a collection of mostly samey, outsized rock songs distinguished primarily by Todd Lewis' adenoidal whine and the omnipresent layers of thick, crunchy, repetitive guitar riffing. Hell Below doesn't bother with many flourishes or accouterments, especially during its one-note first half. Instead, it careens along at a furious pace that will be exhausting but rewarding to duplicate live. On record, however, it feels arbitrary and monotonous, especially when compared to Buckcherry's similarly raucous but far more charismatic and cannily timed Time Bomb.