Yesterday ran away from me a bit, so let’s just pretend it’s still Monday and this isn’t a day late. I thought it’d be a good idea to spend this post looking at the latest album from Europe, Bag of Bones, as I’ll be seeing them play in Bristol later in the week. I know a lot of people only think of The Final Countdown when they hear Europe mentioned, but actually they’ve got a surprisingly big back catalogue considering they’re mostly (if unjustly) known for the one song. Bag of Bones is actually their ninth studio album from a career spanning (on and off) nearly thirty years. No wonder they’re getting sick of the The Final Countdown!
The first thing to notice about Bag of Bones is the brilliant album art. Every time I look at it, I spot something new. It might just look like a fascinating collection of objects, but it also has all the song titles hidden away and if you’re at all like me you could probably while away a good ten minutes or so trying to find them all. Yes, I need a hobby.
But lovely pictures aside, and on to the musical content. Unsurprisingly, Bag of Bones has been most successful in the band’s home country of Sweden, and only charted at 56 in the UK. But the album’s predecessor, Last Look at Eden, only charted at 125 in the UK charts, which is downright ridiculous as it seemed like everyone who heard it was acknowledging it as a corker of an album. This only goes to prove my theory that album charts have no use in this day and age.
Anyway. I was a bit unsure when I first heard Bag of Bones, but after listening to it a few times, I actually rather like it. I love the first single, Not Supposed to Sing the Blues (which only charted in Switzerland at 87, while the second single Firebox failed to chart at all – again, what nonsense!) The main reason I like Not Supposed to Sing the Blues, other than the fact that it’s just so catchy and will stay in the head for hours, resulting in me even humming it in the shower (and I’m usually too easily embarrassed to be caught singing in the shower), is all the little references to the songs and bands that the lovely boys in Europe grew up with: ‘Still a kid when the levee breaks’, ‘back in black and I’m 17, I’ve been told son, let it be’ etc. Okay so it’s not exactly lyrical genius, but I like that it’s little fond reminders of the music that inspired them, and I like being able to spot all the different references because yes, I really do need a hobby.
I don’t really know why Firebox was released as the second single, Doghouse seems to be the more obvious choice to me, perhaps because I heard the band demo it last time I saw them in concert, but also because it’s more attention-grabbing and a bit more fun. Demon Head has also been getting a lot of radio play anyway although it hasn’t actually been released as a single, as far as I know. Firebox is alright, it does have a good intro but it’s not my favourite and it’s not my least favourite, it just floats along nicely in the middle. It’s probably more fun to sing along to than Demon Head though (although perhaps not more than Doghouse), and for some reason the very beginning of Demon Head always reminds me of Rock the Night, so I’m always just a tad disappointed when I realise the radio’s not about to kick into the cheesetastically fabulous (and underplayed!) Rock the Night.
There are a few other stand outs for me on the album, one of which is the opening track Riches to Rags, which is short and sweet with a nice riff and fun guitar solo. The title track Bag of Bones has pretty much every good song element. It starts off with Joey showing off his vocal ability with a gentle and pretty guitar backing before kicking off with lots of drums and electric guitar. A similar sort of thing happens in My Woman My Friend, although this time Joey sings with a toned down, gentle piano backing instead of guitar before breaking into full rock mode, although it’s not quite as effective as in Bag of Bones. The outro is perhaps unnecessarily long too, but it does have some nice chiming sounds. There’s a very small instrumental track called Requiem between Bag of Bones and My Woman My Friend, but I’m not really sure what the purpose of it is. I like an instrumental every now and then, but at only 28 seconds long it doesn’t really seem long enough to achieve anything, and all it really does is separate two sort of similar songs. However, it does have some nice bell chimes in it, which My Woman My Friend nicely follows on the piano and ties it all together, so that’s all quite pleasing.
Finally, both the feel and the lyrics of Bring It All Home is so perfectly suited to close the album and round it off nicely, and I can imagine it also would work well wrapping up a gig, like Whitesnake’s We Wish You Well. I’ll let you know just how well they all work live after seeing them on Thursday!
Track listing: 1) Riches to Rags, 2) Not Supposed to Sing the Blues, 3) Firebox, 4) Bag of Bones, 5) Requiem, 6) My Woman My Friend, 7) Demon Head, 8) Drink and a Smile, 9) Doghouse, 10) Mercy You Mercy Me, 11) Bring it All Home.
See previous Music Monday post, featuring Monster by KISS.