Humanity - Hour 1
Sony / BMG Import, 2007
REVIEW BY: Ben McVicker
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/23/2007
Uli Jon Roth loyalists might disagree, but Unbreakable was a skillful recap of the Scorpions’ career: an album that married the Scorpions’ penchant for heavy riffs, fist-pumping choruses and melodic hooks with a modern rock sound. Three years later, the band has returned with Humanity - Hour 1.
Humanity is chock full of catchy, radio-friendly rock songs, but the whole album has an air of redundancy to it. It is for the most part an enjoyable, inoffensive listen that takes no chances and is musically in line with the band’s usual fare. However, one can’t help but shake the sense that there is something hollow about it.
The album begins on solid footing with a heavy number, “Hour I,” co-written by guitarist John 5 (ex-Marylin Manson). The bleak lyrics of "Human nature is the reason for our downfall / Our religions are our prison that's the fatal flaw" set a dark, political tone for things, which makes one think the rest of the album will comment on the current state of things.
Well, I was wrong. The bulk of Humanity is composed of watered-down soft rock numbers, none of which reference the pessimistic opening (and closing) themes of human nature and the troubled future of mankind. It’s a tad bizarre. Usually when a band has the pretension to release a concept album entitled Humanity - Hour I, they’ll at least have the decency to offer listeners some consistency as far as the music or lyrical themes go. Not the Scorpions.
About midway through the album, one cannot help but heave an impatient sigh as they listen to Klaus Meine croon nostalgically about bygone relationships. Whether it’s “The Future Never Dies” ("Tell me why / I'm alone / when we're lying here together / on a night / that's so cold / and you're just a touch away"), “Love Will Keep Us Alive” ("Love will keep us alive / Let's make the moment right / It's now or never") or “Your Last Song” ("But I can't go back / Even just to kiss you / Cause I can't exist / Just living a lie"), there is entirely too much sappiness on this album. Not only does this quash the promise of the opening number, but the slick, digital production -- song after song laced with keys and orchestral effects -- makes one wonder if rock is supposed to be this polished.
Some of the tracks do have a certain infectious charm. The Scorpions have certainly maintained their knack for writing good hooks and singable choruses. Numbers like “321,” “The Game Of Life” and “Humanity” will remain lodged in your head for ages. And Klaus Meine still sounds great after all these years -- his performance is the only one worthy of note on an otherwise bland album.
Humanity does close on a good note with a pair of strong rock numbers. “The Cross” features quiet verses, an upbeat chorus with dual guitars riffing away and a brief vocal cameo by Billy Corgan. “Humanity” is easily the best song to be found on the album, and is the only one that I can see having a prolonged stay in the Scorpions’ live setlist as a heavy, melodic headbanger that is every bit as enjoyable as the bands' older material.
Humanity - Hour I is a snapshot of a talented rock band on autopilot; a group of aged rock stars writing formulaic power-ballads aimed at fans a quarter of their age. And while the Scorpions have collaborated with outside writers before, never has it been to such a great extent as on Humanity. Writer / producer Desmond Child is credited with co-writing every song and fellow pop producer Marti Frederiksen’s name shows up on half a dozen of them as well. Meine and guitarists Rudolph Schenker and Matthias Jabs, in contrast, are only listed as writing 3 – 4 songs each, and none of them in collaboration with each other.
As a result, it sounds more like an album written by two architects of latter-day Aerosmith, with the Scorpions performing the music. And as with modern Aerosmith, the music has all the appeal of a clever jingle from a shampoo commercial -- catchy, but forgettable.