A Family Affair, the new album by Italian power trio Bad Bones, is essentially what would happen if Led Zeppelin, Motorhead and Metallica fused together. It’s somewhat of a mixed bag, though, as Bad Bones seem capable of only delivering the heaviness without the substance or variety. Still, there is a humility to it that brings some charm.
The trio formed in 2007 when Steve Balocco (bassist/vocalist of White Skull) recruited Meku Borra (guitar/vocals) and Lele Balocco (drums) for collaboration. Their intent was to pay tribute to their musical roots, and with A Familiar Affair, they certainly have. These songs definitely bring testosterone driven aggression and deserve to be blasted through a stereo, but, as is the case with so much “hard rock” these days, it’s also blatantly average.
The album opens with “128 Oxnard Avenue,” an eighty second intro that’s simple but sweet. The title is a tribute to their origin as a band, and its alternative rock quality of arpeggios and simple bass is enjoyable. With the second track, “Modern Times,” Bad Bones reveals its true sound, and it pretty much stays the same throughout the record. The vocals are a mixture of “Lemmy” Kilmister and the music chugs along with your standard rock chord progressions and melodic structure (verse, chorus, etc). Again, there really isn’t any innovation here, but fans of the sound will be happy. “No Way Out” sounds especially like Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades.”
“Run Me Over” impersonates the type of soft/hard shifts Metallica popularized with classics like “Fade to Black” and “Nothing Else Matters.” The problem with Bad Bones attempting this style is that they aren’t very good songwriters (and certainly can’t measure up to the aforementioned Metallica gems) and the vocalist can’t change his voice to suite the style (whereas James Hetfield easily could). The album closes with “Don’t Let the Spirits Get In,” which is like Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” if it were sung by the late Peter Steele (Type O Negative). Its production (acoustic guitar, slide guitar, a touch of keyboards) creates the most pleasant sound on A Family Affair, but again, the vocals don’t fit, and the songwriting is too basic and repetitive.
Bad Bones is a band with promise, and their humility peaks through on A Family Affair. Honestly, they’re nothing special at this point, but their sound does have a touch of originality and diversity (as opposed to, say, Krokus, who mirror AC/DC to an embarrassing extent). What’s refreshing is that, unlike many of their fellow contemporary imitators, they don’t promote themselves with pretension. They don’t claim to be “the most amazing, innovative and manly rock band of this generation,” for example, and I give them credit for that. A band that puts itself out there with the hope that you’ll like them instead of the clichéd insistence that you must love them always deserves helpful advice instead of blatant trashing. Bad Bones needs to work developing their songwriting, dynamics, and most of all, their vocal diversity. If they really focus on studying how their influences mastered shifting attitudes in their music, they will grow into a band all their own.