The reason that Josh Todd & The Conflict’s Year Of The Tiger surprised so much in 2017 wasn’t because it was some amazing reinvention of a formula (because it certainly wasn’t); it surprised because, for effectively the first time in Todd’s twenty-plus-year career, it took a considerably more nuanced and personal focus than the vast majority of anything he’d done before. Sonically, it wasn’t even that much different to his usual work in Buckcherry, but the fact that it’s stuck as much as it has, compared to Warpaint which can’t come and go fast enough, speaks volumes regarding the differences in expectations. It’s not even like Buckcherry themselves are awful, but there’s not much to say about them beyond the fact that, like so much hard rock and especially glam-rock in their vein, they’ve spent the last few years positively haemorrhaging appeal. You’d think that was conscious decision as well, given their baffling decision to kick Warpaint’s cycle off with a perplexing cover of Nine Inch Nails’ Head Like A Hole, but apparently there’s at least something they intend to offer with this album.
Quite what that is, is difficult to parse out, mind, considering how much Warpaint sounds like a band bored out of their skulls and pushing a new album simply to get music out there. Even if Buckcherry have never been the most sonically diverse or reputable band out there, they’ve at least been able to conjure up some dumb fun in the past; Warpaint sounds like its trying to, but can never escape its own predetermined notions of going through the motions and hoping that’ll achieve something. In this case, it doesn’t.
It’s not even that this is an incompetent effort either; it definitely feels like the product of a band eight albums in, not only because there’s a professional edge in terms of pure composition that’s at least admirable, but because any ideas that Buckcherry have feel so greatly diminished that they’re barely worth acting on. That comes through from the very first track too, the title track that plods by on an approximation of an AC/DC riff that feels like the most derivative permutation of hard rock imaginable. That’s the best case scenario, too; it’s a tough ask to call anything on this album all that good, but Buckcherry being inoffensive and bland is arguably their peak, and with the balladic sway of Radio Song and folk-punk rollick of No Regrets, the peaks of quality are there, even if they’re only marginal. For the most part though, Warpaint just ends up as incredibly boring, whether that’s the unsubtle clunks of Right Now and Closer that feel like featureless hard rock nothingness, or Josh Todd’s vocals that only change from one-note honks when he attempts to scream and it near-consistently sounds like he’s being throttled. It’s a lack of modulation that’s the reason Head Like A Hole falls as flat as it does, tossing aside the creeping, icy sneer and intensity that Trent Reznor brought to the original for what feels so rote and uninteresting.
Still, it’s at least one of the more interesting lyrical moments here, and to see it and Bent at least strive for something that’s more introspective breathes maybe one or two more breaths of life into this album. It’s all for naught, of course, as Buckcherry’s dullness translates to the writing and makes this even more stodgy and limp. There’s the customary love for rock ‘n’ roll and its lifestyle on Right Now and Radio Song and the self esteem anthem de rigeur on Back Down, and while that’s tiresome enough, a song called The Devil’s In The Details that boils down to truncated lists of cities to string together some kind of pump-up narrative feels like the absolute final straw as far as redundancy goes. Again, the lyrical streak with Buckcherry has never been a priority, but Warpaint ends up dragging its heels even by their typical standards.
And that’s more or less the only summation needed of this album, pretty much a waste of time that amounts to precious little of worth beyond the bare minimum that can be considered acceptable for hard rock. It’s not even so awful that it’s worth hating all that much; it’s going to be forgotten in about a week anyway, but when there are so many better hard rock, glam rock and Buckcherry albums out there, another log for the fire like this just feels overwhelmingly pointless. It’ll have its audience, sure, but when Buckcherry have been around for as bafflingly long as they have, that sort of caveat becomes increasingly meaningless.
For fans of: Velvet Revolver, Seether, Theory Of A Deadman
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Warpaint’ by Buckcherry is out now on Century Media Records.