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Enuff Znuff
Rock Candy/Grind That Axe
Glam/Hard Rock
Tom Stewart
4.0 stars

Chip Z'nuff and Donnie Vie should be multi-millionaires-period. They have written better songs than most of the popular music I've heard in the last 20 years or so, and it's really disturbing that guys this talented are probably struggling to just keep afloat. If I worked at an advertising agency, I'd have their songs licensed in as many TV ads and stupid teen drama shows as I could just to give them a shot at something hitting for them and giving them the steady publishing royalties they so deserve. But since I don't, all I can do is bitch about it and recommend their albums-all of them. The fact is this: these guys are incapable of releasing a crap album. Yes, some are better than others (1991's Strength is still their masterpiece in my eyes although some albums have come close) and some are just OK by ENUFF ZNUFF standards ("?" and Tweaked come to mind), and some are more eclectic than others (Chip & Donnie's Brothers album, later released as ENUFF ZNUFF 7), but all are mostly killer with little filler. The fact that they have been able to release so many albums of high calibre since the mid 80's is amazing to me and admirable.

For those uninitiated, ZNUFF are like a perfect blend of the Lennon side of THE BEATLES(check out These Daze on Animals With Human's basically #9 Dream off Lennon's Walls & Bridges album), CHEAP TRICK, a little dose of early SQUEEZE (still waiting for them to cover Pulling Mussels From A Shell), with a slight 80's hard rock aesthetic added to the mix. An obscure influence seems to be Chicago area Power Pop band OFF BROADWAY, who's 1st 2 albums On(1979) and Quick Turns(1980) were produced by CHEAP TRICK producer Tom Werman and are highly recommended if you dig ZNUFF. ENUFF ZNUFF unfortunately got signed to a major label and hit MTV right before NIRVANA broke, and although I thought their hippie day-glo glam image was pretty cool and a bit different than let's say WARRANT or FIREHOUSE, by the time their 2nd and superior album Strength was released, the look and sound was over as far as the masses were concerned, and they proceeded to de-glam gradually over the years, but they were forever pigeon-holed as just another hair band, and unfairly considering they are infinitely more talented and have more depth than most of their glam peers. The band has continued to release albums every few years, has weathered band member deaths(guitarist Derek Frigo and 2nd drummer Ricky Parent), various personal issues, Donnie Vie drifts in and out of the band, yet through it all, the music has never suffered for it.

So here it is 2010 and we have the latest offering-Dissonance. I was surprised to see that Jake E. Lee played lead guitar on this. To my ears, you can't really tell it's him, he actually blends in rather well, not smothering the tunes with unnecessary pyrotechnics. As much as I love the 1st 3 albums, the late Derek Frigo's 80s flash playing kind of dates the music a bit, but that's what was in at the time. Besides Jake E. Lee's presence, Dissonance really has no surprises on it-it's what you've come to love and expect from these guys, which is a good thing. There are some heavy songs (Dissonance, High), some great power pop (Fine Line, Altered States), pop ballads (Rollaway), and some cover tunes (a synth-rock version of PRINCE'S When Doves Cry and a BEATLES tune Run For Your Life). What I like about this band is that while they do various types of songs on each album, they never wander too far off of the power pop reservation. These guys are 1st class songwriters, and while lyrics aren't really that important to me generally, at least they write clever takes on the boy/girl subject, never falling back on the worn out cliches. I do have to say the exception to that is Playground on this album, which when you read the lyrics are pretty bad and not typical of them. Otherwise, it's the usual psychedelic peace/love hippie idealism, subtle enough and not preachy or overly political, which is refreshing and inoffensive, unlike say GREEN DAY with their American Idiot nonsense. Who the fuck wants to be insulted when listening to an album? Let's just say it would suck if I saw Chip Znuff in a Che Guevara shirt onstage, that's all I'm saying.

Another good thing about Dissonance is the production on it. Sound-wise, it's has a bit of the bigger fuller sound of the earlier albums but it's not overkill, and it's not as dry and bare-bones sounding as some of their later recordings, some of which sounded like glorified demos, it's a happy medium. It's a strong album with some excellent tunes (Dissonance, Rollaway, Sometimes, Altered States, Fine Line, High), and some just decent stuff (Chicago, Lazy Dazy), but like I said earlier, ENUFF ZNUFF does not make crap albums, and even a weak song from them is still pretty damn good. It's curious to note that drummerVinnie Castaldo co produced the album....which speaks well for him that they'd let another member co-produce, let alone a newbie. Dissonance is another fine release from this excellent band, and if like me, you are starving for ANYTHING that has the musical sensibilities of the stuff we grew up on, pick it up.

Band Lineup:
  • Donnie VieVocals/Guitar/Piano
  • Chip Z'Nuff-Vocals/Bass/Guitar/B3
  • Jake E. Lee-Lead Guitar
  • Vinnie Castaldo-Drums


Track Listing:
  1. Dissonance
  2. Line
  3. Lazy Dazy
  4. Rollaway
  5. High
  6. Altered States
  7. Playground
  8. Sometimes
  9. Joni Lynn
  10. Chicago
  11. Code Red(unreleased outtake)
  12. When Doves Cry
  13. Run For Your Life(unreleased outtake)

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