Paraphernalia

Enuff Z'Nuff

Spitfire Records, 1999

http://www.enuffznuff.com

REVIEW BY: Candy North

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/04/1999

I swear I haven't done drugs in years. Years. Putting this disc into my CD player brought back such severe seventies flashbacks that I could have sworn I was tripping the light fantastic one more time. I could smell the cheap beer and stale cigarette smoke inside the Red Lion Pub again, college bar that was home to illustrious local heroes such as M & R Rush, REO Speedwagon, Styx, and a few years earlier, Cheap Trick. Everybody seemed to be wearing tight designer jeans with hair picks sticking out of the back pocket. Men and women had the requisite long, feathered hair. Wait, no, it's really 1999 and I definitely have graduated from college a long time ago. It's just that the music brings back such, such…such horrible bar band memories.

To their credit, on this their ninth release, Enuff Z'Nuff was smart enough to recruit two huge stars from the power pop era of the late seventies and throw in a nineties guy to look hip. Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick, James Young from Styx and Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins all drop by for a few jams. Unfortunately, the strongest tracks on this album all appear courtesy of one of their guest stars. You gotta wonder how strong a album this is when the cover sticker highlights the guests' appearances more than any of the band's own material.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The most obvious problem with this record is that it's so derivative. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, and in that case, Enuff Z'Nuff should thank Cheap Trick heartily, following up with late seventies arena rock dinosaurs from Boston, Journey, Styx and even to the lesser known eighties darlings, those Aussies, Split Enz. Even in the press release, Chip Z'Nuff clearly states a song like "Invisible" is part Lenny Kravitz, part Led Zeppelin and admits that "Top of the Hill" marries the New York Dolls to Stone Temple Pilots. Listening to this album did have that weird flashback sense of I'd heard this all somewhere before, but it's been done much better.

The album's opener ,"Freak", showcases some of Nielsen's fancy fingerwork, but little else. "Top Of The Hill", which features Young on guitar, is a complete throwaway, leaning too heavily on overworked guitar solos, Young's trademark back when he posed as Styx' guitarist. He does put some finesse and funk into the R&B cut "Invisible", one of the few tunes that feels authentic and mildly more interesting.

The one standout is "Habit", a mid-tempo rocker that has some beautiful acoustic guitar work and lilting vocal harmonies by Z'Nuff. Lyrically reflective and soul-searching, it also blends tempos and musical intensity better than any other cut. The cover of the Cheap Trick song, "Everything Works If You Let It", where Corgan throws in a rather frenzied and spirited guitar performance, shows some spunk and originality but isn't exactly what I'd call an A-Cut Cheap Trick cover.

Most songs, from "Believe In Love" to the maudlin, blatant Elvis Costello rip-off "Loser Of The World", are just plain dreadful, run of the mill slop. It's like listening to your favorite bar band circa the late seventies, but I've heard bar bands who played better and had more original material than this collection of dribble. Mostly, Paraphernalia is boring and recycled formulas ripped off from every bad rock cliché from 1970 on. The band didn't make matters worse with crappy production and thus sounding more amateurish. They hired veteran mixer Chris Shephard, who thankfully has stellar credits in his past to redeem himself with from working with the Pumpkins to Wilco. I'd say leave this one off the resume, Chris, if your reputation means anything to you.

This record covers territory too familiar to most listeners and without the excitement or energy. Unless, of course, you're one of those classic rockers who'd rather hear second-rate imitations of all your favorites. Personally, I prefer living in the present and leaving those flashbacks where they belong - in the past.

Rating: D-

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© 1999 Candy North and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Spitfire Records, and is used for informational purposes only.