As someone who grew up in the Midwestern U.S., I am more than familiar with the music of Boston. Ever since the late-’70s, FM radio has played almost every track from the band’s 1976 debut album on a daily basis (the title track from 1978’s Don’t Look Back still gets heavy rotation too). I’ve never been a huge fan of the band, but some of those songs are pretty badass, if cheesy. More recently, the band was dealt a tragic blow when founding singer Brad Delp committed suicide in 2007. A brief tour followed with Michael Sweet (Stryper) taking Delp’s place, but when Sweet returned to his main band, it was assumed that Boston would be laid to rest. So I was intrigued by the news of a new Boston record, Life, Love & Hope, recorded by mainman Tom Scholz and a mostly new lineup.
The first serious problem with Life, Love & Hope is the production, or lack thereof. The use of a drum machine is pretty blatant, and it sounds thin and cheap. The vocal levels are all over the place, and other than Scholz’s signature guitar tone, nothing sounds even remotely human or lifelike. To put it another way: this record sounds like shit.
But anyone who’s heard Transilvanian Hunger knows that sounding like shit is OK, as long as the songs are good, right? Sadly, LL&H falters in that regard too. These tunes sound like they were hastily written and recorded, with absolutely none of the clever hooks and prog bombast that made early Boston (kinda) great. The title track and opener “Heaven On Earth” come closest to being coherent, and with a real drummer and good mix, they might have been decent songs. Other songs are just embarrassing, like the super-dated hip-hop beat of “Didn’t Mean To Fall In Love,” or the sound effects and pseudo-rap on “Sail Away” (Longtime fans will be glad to know that there are handclaps on at least 2 or 3 songs).
What’s really strange is that a few of these songs were actually re-recorded from the last Boston album, Corporate America, which came out 11 years ago. I’m not really sure what the logic is here. You’d think they would rework a classic like “Smokin'” or “Peace Of Mind,” to show how much ass the new lineup kicks. No one gives a shit about Corporate America or even knows it exists, and I doubt a redux of those tracks accomplished anything except making them sound worse.
Making matters more confusing, Boston now has four lead singers. Of the four, Brad Delp is easily the best, despite having died 6 years ago [Neat trick, that! — Steel Druhm]. Tommy DeCarlo sounds uncannily like Delp, which is undoubtedly how he got the job. The others, David Victor and Kimberly Dahme, fall somewhere between “unnecessary” and “extremely grating.” These guys are OK by karaoke standards, but they have no business being in this band.
The bottom line is that Life, Love & Hope is fucking unacceptable by any standard. Tom Scholz is a renowned audiophile with a shitload of money, and he should not be releasing an album that sounds like some local band’s demo. More importantly, most of these songs are generic, half-assed pop rock, far below the standards of a legendary group like Boston. I have no clue who the band’s audience is these days (except maybe this guy), but I doubt they’ll be impressed. It sounds like Scholz and co. just don’t give a fuck anymore. Well, allow me to return the favor.