Everyday at 6:56pm I step off the Gold Line at the Highland Park station and see my wife waiting for me with our 2 year old son in the minivan, of course. The stress of the day washed away from a relaxing train ride from Hollywood , and there's nothing better than to see my family once again. However, this past week has introduced me to someone I had heard about in stories of the past and thought only existed within the confines of archived footage from 1989. Yes, I'm referring to the recent album release from the reunited ultimate boy band, New Kids on the Block .
The curiously titled album, The Block , was release September 2nd, and I feel time has stood still since then. Now, when the train slips away towards Pasadena, and the sound of cell phone conversation and ice cream carts is drowned out by the booming and vicious club bass echoing between avenues 58 and 59. This is not your mother's New Kids' record. It is not what I remember from my 8th grade dances. It is an audio assault on our wives, the mothers of our children, and a whole new generation of teenie boppers. And to be honest with you, I kind of dig it.
Now, I'm the last guy on this planet that would be into this music. Scratch that. John McCain would be the last guy, but I'm on that short list. As I get older the years seem to stack on top of each other like so many used cd's from Amoeba, erasing the stubborn refusal to accept things beyond my personal vision of what is good. Marriage has a way of speeding up this process. Does this album have the lyrical content of Dylan? Uh, no. Will it have an impact on the world like Sgt. Peppers or Dark Side ? Only time will tell, but I'm going say not a chance. But I can tell you that Jimmy Iovine at Interscope has a formula that seems to work.
Iovine, known for producing artists like Bruce Springsteen , U2 , Tom Petty , Patti Smith , The Pretenders , and Donnie Wahlberg's bro when he was Marky Mark , came together with Wahlberg and Interscope A&R head Martin Kierszenbaum to executive produce The Block . Kierszenbaum had producing credits with Sting, Keane, and most recently, Feist. The product of their collaboration is a grown up mix of club beats, guest vocalists, and a couple of those "I'm singing only to you, girl" tracks. The theme of the album, I guess you could say, is something like "remember when you were 14 and wanted to kiss us, well now we're going to have sex." Songs like "Big Girl Now" featuring Lady Gaga, "Grown Man" featuring The Pussycat Dolls and Teddy Riley , and "Sexify My Love" adhere to this theme.
Most of the songs were co-written by Wahlberg, who has become Hollywood's go-to guy when you need a troubled detective in your movie ( Saw II , III , and IV , Dead Silence , Righteous Kill ), including the first single, "Summertime" , released earlier this year. As far as a "New Kids" sound goes, this is probably the closest you'll hear on the album, with a basic verse, chorus, bridge structure. Not a club track, but I guess you can dance to it. My son does, but it's the same dance when Curious George comes on.
" Click Click Click", most likely the next single, starts the album out pretty smooth, reintroducing some talented voices out of Boston known as Donnie, Danny, Joey, Jordan, and Jonathan. It's either about taking a mental picture of someone and how they are at one particular moment, or taking naked pictures. Maybe it's a little of both. The photography motif continues later in the album with "Lights, Camera, Action". This one is more straight forward, looking to make tonight a Hilton night.
If you're a fan from way back and looking to be wooed, they do make the valiant effort with "Stare at You", "Don't Cry" and "2 in the Morning". The latter was co-written by LA's own Emanuel "Eman" Kiriakou, who has produced a boat load of American Idol winners and losers. He's an old friend of Joey McIntyer's, and played acoustic on his album One Too Many : Live From New York . I was officially dragged to see to two of them play at the Knitting Factory about 5 years ago. Even the bouncer knew I must have been married or in a very serious relationship, as I was one of about two guys there. The set, however, was really good. Just Joey and Eman, a mic and guitar, and a bottle of whiskey on stage. I spoke with Eman after the show, and he seemed to be a guy who just likes playing music with his friend, so he got his chance here on this album again.
Have I been converted? Not really, but I have a new appreciation for the guys. They could have monkeyed around on this record, dumped a bunch of digital garbage, and still gone platinum because of their worldwide appeal. Instead, it sounds like they actually tried to make a hit record, as if nobody knew who they were. I always applaud effort. Now for me, I've got another month (at least) of club life mama, super fan #1,643,897, picking me up at the station. She's off to see the "Kids" at Staples Center on October 8th. They come back again to Staples on November 26th, in case once wasn't enough. Until then, I guess I'll just be hangin' tough. Ugh, did I just write that?