Saturday, 12 November 2016

Review: Meat Loaf - Braver Than We Are

Sometimes as a musician you have to know when it's time to stop and Meat Loaf is an artist that hasn't quite mastered that decision. Following a series of live cancellations and some questionable television appearances we get his thirteenth album and though, overall, it's a rather enjoyable album, the cracks are showing.

Built up from songs from Jim Steinman that have seemingly been pulled out of a cupboard, there are some really strong songs on here but Meat Loaf if not on great form, with his vocals wobbly and at many times the supporting singers become the highlight, as well as moments when the songs seem to cherry pick from elsewhere in the back catalogue such as snatches of 'I'd Do Anything For Love' on track two and 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' lyrics on the penultimate number.

Circus-themed opener 'Who Needs The Young' establishes the theatrics and over-the-top style familiar to his work and has some great lyrics but it's a tad messy in parts in its production. Second track and 11-minute opus 'Going All the Way Is Just the Start (A Song in 6 Movements)' is much more like it. Name-checking the album title this sounds like a classic operatic Meat Loaf song and though his voice struggles this is a great song with a good balance of having disparate elements in it but one consistent thread. With plenty of hooks, some strong call-and-balance moments, and a great sing-a-long ending this is a true highlight of the record, even if it does feel like an ending number as the hooks start to fade out.

Third track 'Speaking in Tongues' is pretty much the polar opposite, a much gentler ballad but the dual vocals works really well and its emotional highs and lows make for a good musical journey.

'Loving You's a Dirty Job (But Somebody's Gotta Do It)', aside from the title sounding so Meat Loaf it sounds like a joke (and was previously recorded by Bonnie Tyler), is a neat track but the elements showcased have been done bigger and better before, but it's not that skippable and by the time its six minutes are up it's actually settled in.

'Souvenirs' feels like the first average track after a strong four-song opening, and at eight minutes feels, in this case, like an indulgence. 'Only When I Feel' at under two minutes long is a small distraction before 'More' returns more to form, but again, outside of the 'I need all the love I can get' break-down lacks the spark of those early tracks on the album.

'Godz' is the next best track and probably the most distinctive on the record, it's energy and over the top lyrics are a winner. Bleeding directly into 'Skull Of Your Country' this is another memorable track but it's chief hook comes from its Steinman self-plagiarism of 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' which is never a good sign even if it does come across well.

The album's closing track - 'Train of Love' is weirdly one of its best. Though short at just over four-minutes that feels like one of the strongest tracks on the album and certainly the most radio-friendly thanks to its train-like rhythm, catchy pop-chorus and Queen-vibe.

'Braver Than We Are' is a mixed bag. Song-wise it feels like the barrel is being scraped, Meat Loaf is no longer on great vocal form, and there's some filler mid-album, and it certainly locks the operatic energy of something like 'Couldn't Have Said It Better'. That said it has enough on the LP to keep you interested and it all just about holds together. But let's call it a day now shall we? (6.5/10)

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