So, last night I picked up the new BON JOVI album This House Is Not For Sale (out now, Island Records. That’s right, I still go out and buy physical copies of records, and I hope many of you do, too!) and couldn’t wait to hear it. It’s no secret that I fangirl pretty hard for this band, and have seen them live 12 times, so any time there’s a new release afoot, I’m usually at or near the front of the line. BON JOVI’S songs have always played a pivotal role in shaping my memories since 1986, and with the exception of two (Crush, Bounce) every record has spoken to me on a level that is indescribable. From the dark cynicism of These Days to the Us-Against-The-World feel of The Circle, their post-80’s output has been nothing short of spectacular for the most part.
A lot has happened in the almost four years since What About Now, and I was both curious and excited to see what the group would come up with for album number thirteen. When the title track came out in August I wasn’t that into it at first, but I also wasn’t writing the album off. And now that it’s in my possession that track has certainly grown on me. “Living With the Ghost” has some nice keyboard work from David Bryan, and his piano sound carries much of “Knockout”, a big, bombastic number that demands to be heard on the hooks. The first of several gems is next with “Labor of Love”. The guitar work of Phil X has a southwestern flair and vocalist Jon Bon Jovi sounds world-weary as he softly sings, “Baby, this ain’t workin’, it’s a labor of love.”
“Born Again Tomorrow” makes a pretty splashy entrance, and drummer Tico Torres and bassist Hugh McDonald are steady as a rock throughout. But once again, it’s Bryan’s keys that carry the song for me. “Roller Coaster” is one of the most upbeat numbers on the disc, and both musically and lyrically it wouldn’t be out of place on 2005’s Have a Nice Day (one of my favorites). One of the things about modern day BON JOVI is those hummable intro guitar lines on many songs (“Love’s the Only Rule”, “That’s What the Water Made Me”), and “New Year’s Day” swings for those same fences. Does it connect in that respect? I’ll leave that up to you guys, but it’s still a cool tune regardless.
Now we come to one of my absolute favorites in “The Devil’s In the Temple”. With the dirtiest riff I’ve ever heard from these guys, this was one that made me sit bolt upright and have to hear it again and again. “Scars On this Guitar” is very pretty and Jon’s voice on the chorus had me singing along (as best I could). It’s also one of his best and most heartfelt performances on the record. “Reunion” mines the country-rock direction the band explored on 2007’s Lost Highway, and what it mines is pure gold. This was right up my alley because I still love that album.
Another standout is “I Will Drive You Home”. I have been singing this one since last night, and I probably won’t stop anytime soon. It’s very moody, and Jon’s understated delivery really drives the song. “Goodnight New York” is a love letter to one of the greatest cities in the world,and one of the greatest songs on this disc, make no mistake. I’m NY born and raised, so this song totally resonates with me on a deeper level. “Touch of Grey” is definitely the deepest track as far as subject matter. But it should remind us that it’s our differences that make us all the same. We’re all just people, and this tune illustrates that perfectly.
“Come On Up to Our House” is the perfect way to wrap things up. It’s warm, enveloping, and it just feels like when you and an old friend are sitting at the kitchen table, or sitting on the back deck drinking beers, doing shots, and swapping stories till the sun comes up. Those are always the best nights, aren’t they? And that’s how I felt when I finished This House Is Not For Sale, like I’d been up all night with an old friend. BON JOVI, much like JOURNEY, has been the soundtrack for most of my life, from the teen years till now. And as I listen to these songs I feel like I’m sitting on my porch looking through a photo album of all the memories. And for that I am extremely grateful. I hope some of you out there will feel the same way. Thank you for a great album, guys!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “I Will Drive You Home”, “Goodnight New York”, “Come On Up to Our House”, “The Devil’s In the Temple”, “Labor of Love”, “Scars On This Guitar”, “Touch of Grey”, “Reunion”, “Roller Coaster”