Europe. Yes, “The Final Countdown” Europe are proving to be a very interesting band indeed. Obviously they are famous for good looks, blonde hairspray manes and catchy (read easily irritating) 1980’s soft-rock “classics” such as “The Final Countdown”, “”Rock The Night”, and of course “Carrie”.
It is a surprise then that their last three albums have proven to be of such high calibre rock music that they are producing some of the best material of the genre around today.
Starting the trend (and comeback) with Secret Society and following that up with Last Look At Eden, Europe firmly put themselves back on the radar with strong songs, no pomp, very little obvious synth, some great guitar work and fantastic vocals. Oh, and did I mention the brilliant live performances? returning earlier this year with Bag of Bones, Europe have continues the upward trend and produced a stormer of an album. The sound is classic rock, with deep and weighty guitars punching the air at every turn.
Opening with ‘Riches to Rags’ a song which teases a funky riff influenced by Led Zeppelin, it is clear Europe mean business. Catchy but with no saccharin, it’s easy to get into this song. John Norum plays a blinder early on with a guitar solo which signposts exactly how good this album is going to be. Just as well then that opening single ‘Not Supposed To Sing Blues’ – up next – thunders along with even more aplomb and even deeper sound. Lyrically the song is extremely autobiographical telling Joey Tempest’s life through albums and songs as the were released. A great song.
Ensuring you are keeping up with them, ‘Firebox’ weighs in with an even heavier riff and yet another brilliant chorus. The Eastern influenced middle-eight is perfectly poised in amongst all the riffing and makes for a great little interlude before Norum once again proves his guitar prowess; truly his guitar playing is worth the CD price alone!
Title track ‘Bag of Bones’ is a slower track yet no less effective with a slower intro verse and building up halfway through. It is hard to explain how contemporary, steeped in their influences yet forging the road ahead. Remember this is not the Europe you are thinking of when you immediately think of Europe. This is almost a different band, and one who deserves a legacy based on the journey they’ve taken, not just on one song.
Later track ‘Doghouse’ got an airing on the “Balls n Banners” tour. Here it seems to grow even more “balls” with a fuller sound and an organ backing. Joey Tempest’s voice is immaculate throughout, John Norum was never this good before, was he!? Perhaps. But the true star of this album is the music. Cliché no doubt but it is so true in this case. Here we have a band who seem to have started again and redefined their style and direction. Or perhaps, they are so talented musicians and songwriters that simply write the best write music they can of their time, be it the 80s or 2012.
If you want to hear ‘The Final Countdown’ then buy a Greatest Rock Album…Ever-type album. If you want to some of the greatest rock today then buy Rags to Riches.