Life, Love & Hope
The question of relevance, when it comes to a veteran rock outfit is, no doubt, a thorny proposition to ponder. But it comes into sharp focus when said act has been out of the public eye for years, or even decades. One thing is certain, tho: whatever argument in favor of a return is certainly hindered if there really isn’t an audience anticipating the artist’s most recent offerings.
As opposed to the return of The Pixies and My Bloody Valentine—the former getting a tad burned by the recent release of an EP of new material, which follows a sold out reunion tour and subsequent, enthusiastically recieved live jaunts; the latter releasing their first album in 22 years to much praise—seminal hardcore band Black Flag and ‘70s AOR stalwarts Boston—polar opposites if ever, despite their respective leaders being tech geeks who didn’t see a place for themselves in the mid ‘70s rock and roll landscape—have endured much in the way of discord and indifference, respectively, of late.
Black Flag’s first album of new material in 28 years seems to exist in a sort of nebulous area: although not a return to form, it's definitely not an embarrassment a la The Weirdness (c’mon, Iggy!) but not exactly vital, either. It doesn’t suck and Black Flag fans should not avoid it, is probably the most accurate if not entirely charitable synopsis. (Vocalist Ron Reyes does kick ass throughout the proceedings.)
Longtime Boston vocalist Brad Delp committed suicide in March of 2007. Aside from guitarist Tom Scholz’s layered guitar sound Delp was the band’s single most identifiable sonic asset, and some might argue its best. Unfortunately, his posthumous appearance on Life, Love & Hope is wasted on tepid, badly produced material that would’ve sounded dated 20 years ago and could only be of interest to Boston completists.
Eventually, even the most talented of athletes have to retire, their bodies no longer responding to the challenges of their chosen profession. Musicians don’t have that obstacle but sometimes, as Boston’s new album particularly proves, it might be a good thing if they had some sort of equivalent.