Bad Baron – Ace of Hearts Review

Bad BaronBad Baron pay tribute to the B and C list artists who littered 80s movie soundtracks with vapid rock anthems and forgettable saccharine power ballads. It was a strange and wonderous time for those of us who lived through it. While artists like Peter Cetera, Phil Collins and Kenny Loggins found renewed popularity on the silver screen, countless unknown artists tested their metal on the soundtracks to the endless VHS atrocities that littered the local mini mart’s back corner. What attracted Finnish masochists Bad Baron to the bottom of the barrel in one of music’s most terrible eras? Who knows? And why do I keep reviewing bands with dumb names? I also don’t know, but I’ve got a deadline to meet and gruel to earn. As Mr. Miyagi said in The Karate Kid “To make honey, a bee needs a young flower not an old prune.” Time to wax off.

The first thing that probably caught your eye is the nifty vaporwave Miami Vice cover and the album’s title. Ace of Hearts is a sort of anti-Motörhead statement of some sort. Like the twins in Jean Claude Van Damme’s comic masterpiece Double Impact, the weird duo doesn’t really make sense but no one will care anyway. For better or worse, the speedboat blasting into the pastel horizon trailed by playing cards sets the tone for the delirious nonsense that follows. It’s the Miami Connection of faux-retro albums and one could easily imagine a Bad Baron/ Dragon Sound double bill, ninjas and all.

The songs, and especially the lyrics on Ace of Hearts, feel like they were written by an artificial intelligence program. It’s as if Dr. Emmett Brown, Dr. Egon Spengler and the kid from War Games pulled a Weird Science and programmed their Apple II+s to churn out the most generic songs possible. Also, songs that would imbed themselves in your skull and haunt your dreams. Songs like “Rebel Heartache” nail the odd, ambiguous lyrics of the time that pretended to say something but were utterly devoid of any traceable meaning. Other songs like “One Minute to Midnight” with its agonizing “tick tock” pre-chorus and the cliché ridden “Long Road Home” lead to more cringing than an Anthony Michael Hall house party. Of the 13 songs on the album, only one of them is moderately good. “Our Story Isn’t Over” is hokey to be sure but it’s catchy as hell and it’s the one that got under my skin. I’m being generous here, but they managed to tap into the weepy world of the teenage break-up ballad and thread a modest level of sincerity into it. The silky Whitesnake-like production is seductive as hell and packages the tune with a big pink bow.

What the band nails (not necessarily in a good way) is the production and instrumentation of the era. Singing guitar notes and lush synthesizers fill every corner of the mix. The final track “Anthem for Rock and Roll” nicely summarizes all the musical tropes of the day. The song opens with uplifting guitar melodies followed by a rock ahead verse and then a frosted cake of a chorus that will be stuck in your head for months. The band even close things down with a bagpipe to assure you that it’s been a long way to the top. Singer/ bassist Lauri Huovinen, a 2020 contestant on Voice of Finland, has a powerful yet sensitive delivery for this type of treacle but lacks the tongue in cheek charisma to sell it. While the rest of the band is talented and clearly did their homework, they can’t stand shoulder to shoulder with a Steel Panther or Night Flight Orchestra when it comes to 80s tribute acts. They have little to add beyond the worst elements of a genre that was never embraced during its heyday.

Curiosity is the only reason I’d recommend giving this pastel train wreck a spin. But be warned, the running time feels so much longer than 48 minutes. If you’re hosting a “back to the 80s” party or want to create a drinking game around painful lyrical clichés, this could be your soundtrack. I will be blasting my worn Rocky IV soundtrack the next few days to try and rinse the lingering taste of Ace of Hearts away.1 Little did I know how bad or barren things could become with all these retro acts.

Rating: 1.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Pride and Joy Music
Website:| Bad
Releases Worldwide: August 26th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. There’s no easy way out. – Steel
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