Hard rock not-quites Buckcherry were never really that important a band, releasing one popular song that was vulgar, catchy, and immensely irritating. I was surprised, then, when frontman Josh Todd formed Josh Todd and the Conflict (hereafter JTC) and released their debut record Year of the Tiger. Apart from some nostalgia for 2005 via their hit song, I never understood the world to be craving more Buckcherry music, less so clamoring for a solo project from their singer. When such a project emerges, normally it’s an outlet for two impulses: first, the want to put out music in a style that isn’t congruent with the artist’s main band; second, to put out mediocre B-sides and make a quick buck off whatever your name is worth. With this in mind, Year of the Tiger was a bit confusing to hear.
JTC stays comfortably in the realm of hard rock, being a touch more abrasive than Buckcherry in spots by way of incorporating a healthy dose of The Bronx to the proceedings. Granted, there’s nothing here that couldn’t be played on a local hard rock radio station that also plays 90s Metallica and the like, as this is basically the hard rock stylings of Buckcherry with some Foo Fighters and The Bronx thrown into a blender with Todd’s nasally Axl Rose meets M. Shadows vocal stylings over top. Radio rock to the core, Hellyeah could probably tour with this project.
This all sounds insulting, but for being comprised of simplistic radio and/or bar rock songs, Year of the Tiger does well enough for itself. The title track is basically Bronxcherry, meaning it’s aggressive, hooky, and short; it’s a burner through and through, and the taut rock riffing works well. “Inside” embraces the Motley Crue influences of Buckcherry noticeably more, but still successfully retains some Bronx aggression well enough to be a highlight. Todd’s unusual voice shines in “Rain” because it sounds earnest over the blues-rock licks that comprise the track, which see the whole band firing on all cylinders for a quality downtrodden stomper. “Atomic” is like RHCP if they weren’t the musical equivalent of a twelve-foot pile of flaming tires, meaning a quick blast of funky and catchy radio rock that’s best enjoyed loud.
The faults shine through in the lame Crue-cut ballad “Good Enough,” which is boring, poorly sequenced (right after the only other slower song here, the vastly superior “Rain”), and reeks of the worst habits of the 80s, namely the powerless power ballad and the flaccid riffs that accompany it. “Erotic City” is as poor as its title, and sounds like Hot Action Cop riffing on “Electric Avenue” for some reason heretofore unknown and likely best left undiscussed. Most irritating is “Story of My Life,” which has a great pre-chorus on all fronts but botches the chorus with some uninspiring radio rock riffing likely too tame for the Foo Fighters.
Ultimately, Year of the Tiger sounds like a series of songs that don’t quite fit the Buckcherry template, for better and for worse. It’s produced well, with a lively sound that gives each performer a spot in the mix where they can be heard. It nicely evokes a show at a bar packed with people having a good time, which enhances the highlights in a big way. Unfortunately, this also serves to exacerbate the weaknesses of the duds here, as putting everything up front shows the lacking aspects with clarity and immediacy. All of the above said, there’s more I enjoy on Year of the Tiger than I dislike overall, and some songs here are certainly great party fodder and simply fun to listen to. This doesn’t make JTC’s debut necessary listening, or even all that compelling for someone not already slightly interested in the prospect of hearing Buckcherry’s singer front a band that’s a lot like Buckcherry but different in some regards. Nonetheless, simple fun is sometimes a real treat, and when Year of the Tiger achieves that in the highlights mentioned above, they do an admirable job of it.