Sebastian Bach - Kicking & Screaming (Frontiers/Riot)

Better than we could have hoped for...
Release Date: 
22 Sep 2011 - 11:30pm

Where to begin with our man Bach? Since his schism with Skid Row in the mid nineties he seems to have spent more time in the wilderness than John the Baptist, emerging every now and then back to civilization to add his acting talents to Broadway and the Gilmore Girls (where thankfully his presence on screen gave me all the excuse I needed to sit looking doe-eyed at Lauren Graham... Excuse me, I’ve become sidetracked again), or to release a succession of poorly received and largely disappointing records like the ill-fated Last Hard Men project. And let’s not mention the 2006 VH1 reality show Supergroup...

In 2007 Bach’s fortunes appeared to be on the up with the release of Angel Down, a ‘proper’ hard rock album that, despite covering Aerosmith and leaning on the presence of Axl Rose to establish its credentials still felt like the first real album from the man since the Skid Row days. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a marked step in the right direction.

Which brings us to Kicking & Screaming. Early signs weren’t good – Bob Marlette’s presence behind the desk always smacks of record company desperation to this writer, as he’s been the (undeniably successful) eminence grise behind radio friendly pap from, amongst others, hopeless dupes such as Saliva, Airbourne and Black Stone Cherry. However, the difference between these hapless bozos and Bach is easy to put your finger on. The moment Seb opens his gob he’s personality plus; the last hard man he may be, but he’s also one of the last bona fide rockstars we have, and its perhaps this that shines forth more than anything on Kicking & Screaming. There are no classics here, though on the likes of the storming, almost-good-enough-for-Slave to the Grind Dirty Power he comes close. Despite a fair dollop of unremarkable modern rock being on offer here (there’s the ever present threat of grunge hovering over some of the songs here, as it does on all albums by returning hair metal heroes), Bach’s voice makes every song if not a tour de force then certainly something you’ll want to come back to for repeated listens. There are not many vocalists doing the rounds today who can lift a song out of mundanity simply by emitting a well placed scream, but Bach is one of them, and time and again on K&S he saves the day with some truly inspired vocalising.

With the Skids some of Bach’s best work came on ballads, and that’s the case once again here with the likes of Dream Forever and the astonishing Wishin' (which somehow manages to sound like seventies pomp rock titans Angel jamming on Thunderclap Newman’s Something in the Air) which closes out the album in fabulous fashion and has you rushing to tell anybody who’ll listen about the fantastic slab of wax you’ve just introduced your ears to. Make no mistake, this isn’t a stadium trashing, arena munching behemoth of an album – but it is very, very strong indeed, and for the time being that's enough. Welcome back sir.