Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Music: Judge Jackson: Drive

Music: Judge Jackson: Drive

Our Take

I’ve said this time and time again, but the key to quality hard rock in 2010 has more to do with how many hooks your songs have and how catchy your choruses are rather than how original your music sounds. If we were to evaluate the genre based solely on who sounds the most unique (especially for bands on major labels) all of them would be considered terrible. Thankfully, Los Angeles’ Judge Jackson seems to understand what it takes for a hard rock band to stand out as their fifth studio album Drive has plenty of catchy moments and a nice amount of variety. And while it’s not quite my pick for top hard rock album of the year, it does live up to its name and will provide plenty of entertainment as you cruise the highways.
What makes Judge Jackson so great is that they seem to want to encompass every facet of the hard rock genre. They’ve got the fast paced groove heavy tracks that are similar to many of today’s genre acts, the slightly dirtier mid-tempo songs that post grunge was known for in the previous decade, and even some slow melodically oriented blues rock. All of these styles are sure to appeal to fans of traditional rock ‘n roll, and quite a few of the songs have the types of choruses that make you want to put the album on as loud as possible in your car. It really seems as though the instrumentalists have tried to combine the old and new into one cohesive mix, and for the most part they succeed. However, I must admit that when the band slows things down they lose some of their energy and aren’t quite as memorable. It’s something that I hope they work on, as if they can make all their songs have the same care free energy they could really grab listeners.

Vocalist Todd McTavish is great, and he is reminiscent of various hard rock vocalists depending on what range/pitch he is making use of on a particular track. On some of the louder, up-tempo tracks he has a little bit of a Layne Staley type of sound (mostly on the choruses), while on others he sounds a little closer to Josh Todd from Buckcherry. What is particularly noteworthy is that McTavish actually seems to have a decent range and when he sings on the mellower tracks it sounds quite different from the up-tempo ones. This makes the band stand out a bit over some of the hard rock acts that feature fairly one dimensional vocalists, and listeners will surely appreciate what Todd McTavish brings to the table.

Drive is definitely an album that will warrant multiple plays, but it isn’t quite able to maintain momentum for its entirety. Because of this I see Judge Jackson as a band that hard rock listeners will enjoy playing but won’t necessarily list as one of their favorites just yet. However, they’re definitely getting closer to that point and if they can keep moving forward it seems likely their name will be more prominent in the genre.
Chris Dahlberg
October 07, 2010

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