I've always held a special place in my rock 'n' roll heart for Britny Fox – not only because the band's 1988 single "Long Way to Love" still makes me wanna play air guitar more than practically any other song in history, but also because these guys were among the final so-called hair bands to make an impact before flannel and angst infiltrated American rock music.
But I was ready to drop my affinity for Britny Fox upon hearing the leadoff track from the band's new album, the oddly titled Springhead Motorshark. "Pain" is a vulgar two-minute-and-50-second song that comes off as if the band is trying to emulate the down-tuned and muddied sound that destroyed it in the first place. Granted, the guys in Britny Fox should be allowed to update their sound. It's just that I imagine most people who buy this album won't be in the mood for a grand departure from the days of yore.
That's why it's fortunate (for us and the band) that by the time the second track, "Freaktown," runs its course, Britny Fox has redeemed itself with a melodic rocker that's both heavy and true to form. Other songs — namely the guitar-and-piano ballad "L.A.," the acoustic ditty "Is It Real?" and the heavy harmonies of "Far Enough" — also find the band capturing a hairspray high without sounding retro. The voice of singer and guitarist Tommy Paris, who replaced original singer/guitarist "Dizzy" Dean Davidson for 1991's Bite Down Hard, sounds as strong as ever — even if he shies away from the higher notes these days. And the rest of the band (guitarist Michael Kelly Smith, bassist Billy Childs and drummer Johnny Dee — all who played on 1988's self-titled debut) sound tight and rehearsed, belying the fact that these dudes haven't been in a studio together to make an album for a dozen years.
1. At less than 44 minutes, Springhead Motorshark could have been longer, as four of these 11 songs clock in at shorter than three minutes.
2. More tracks could have rocked a little harder, somewhere in between the likes of "Is It Real?" and "Pain."
3. A trio of bonus CD-ROM videos capturing Britny Fox in concert — pulled from 2001's reunion album, Long Way to LIVE! — could have been more effective as a bonus DVD.
Yet Springhead Motorshark is still better than new efforts from many other bands of the era, which shall remain unnamed at this time. I still like Britny Fox's older stuff better, but most of these songs will do just fine, too.