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Music to my ears

Scorpions: Humanity Hour I

10/01/2007 - I saw a man the other day with a t-shirt that said, "Old Guys Rule." Ten years ago I would have rolled my eyes and thought, "Whatever, Dude." But now that I'm forty-something, I thought, "Right on! We do rule!" Then I thought, "I wonder where I could get me a shirt like that?"

You see, now that I am an old guy (If you don't think I'm old, just ask a teenager), I have come to realize that we really do rule. I would also like to take this opportunity to assert the fact that we also ROCK. Don't believe me? Well, I could mention a wide variety of bands and solo artists to illustrate my postulation. But I won't. I'll just mention one. Since you read the title of this article, you already know that I'm about to refer to the Scorpions.

If you're not already familiar with this band, let me fill you in. If you are, you're welcome to skip this paragraph. The Scorpions are a German hard rock/metal band dating back to the late sixties. They released their first album, "Lonesome Crow" back in 1972. Klaus Meine and Rudolph Schenker, the singer and rhythm guitarist respectively, formed the band back in 1966. They were teenagers at the time, having been born in the late 40s. Following the release of "Lonesome Crow," they went on to release a string of good but marginally successful albums, until they released "Blackout" in 1982. With this album they began to build momentum. Two years later the band finally hit it big commercially with the follow-up entitled "Love at First Sting."

In 1982 I "discovered" the Scorpions. I bought "Blackout" and freaked out. It was awesome! I was seventeen, and not an old guy by any standard. Owing to the fact that I was already a budding young audiophile, I bought all of the albums in their catalogue that summer. I remained a fan of the band until the early nineties. By then I had begun to "grow up" and lost interest in hard rock in general and the Scorpions specifically. Even so, I would occasionally hear "No One Like You" or "Rock You Like a Hurricane" on the radio and smile. How could I help it? They rocked.

To be honest, in recent years, I have returned to my hard rocking roots (maybe because I have a teenager of my own now), and "Blackout" is back in the collection. And it's still awesome! So it was that when I learned that the Scorpions were to release a brand new album this year, my curiosity overcame me. Is it true, I wondered? Do old guys rule? More importantly, do they rock?

Upon listening to "Humanity Hour 1," the answer is…sort of.

Don't misunderstand me. The music on the new Scorpions release is good. In fact, it's very good. The playing is solid, and the production is stellar. As always, Klaus and Rudy write incredibly good, melodic songs with unbelievably catchy choruses. Klaus' voice is truly one of the most recognizable and unique in the genre. This is a good thing. Those two words can be euphemisms for terrible singing (see: Neil Young), but if you've ever heard Klaus sing, especially on a ballad, you know that he has an amazing, and yes, distinctive voice.

Humanity Hour 1 features all the elements that made the Scorpions great, except for one. Really, really good rock and roll always has attitude. I'm talking about a nasty, raucous, free-spirited attitude. On every great rock album there is a dangerous, almost wild something that is nearly tangible and totally visceral. This is what the Scorpions' latest disc lacks. Maybe it's a function of their age. I hope not, but I suspect that it is.

The album features several of the requisite ballads that the band has become famous for ("Always Somewhere" and "Still Loving You" are two personal past favorites), and these are extremely good, but when the Scorpions attempt to rock, it just doesn't work very well. It sounds like they are trying to rock. Not good. By its very nature, great rock is never contrived or manufactured. It just happens as a function of attitude.

I once heard Dee Snider, singer for Twisted Sister, recalling a time when he sat pool side at his palatial estate trying to write the next big rock anthem for the band. He looked around at his mansion and collection of high-dollar sports cars, and realized he was no longer angry. He couldn't drum up any attitude. He couldn't summon the wild abandon that good rock requires. I have a feeling this is the problem the Scorpions face. Nice problem to have, though…

Anyway, if you're heavily into either the Scorpions or hard rock nostalgia, pick this one up. There are some great moments on this disc. But if you want to rock out, stick with the new blood, like maybe Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Unearth, or Shadows Fall.

Even though the Scorpions laid a big rock and roll egg with this new release, I still like them and I still believe they rock, you know, sort of. Come on. Imagine being sixty years old, plugging in a Gibson Flying V guitar, and blasting blistering power chords through a Marshall Stack. Even better, imagine doing it all over the world in front of massive crowds! Old guys ROCK, dude!

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