The “anti rock star” ethos of grunge was a reaction to the excess and debauchery so prevalent and definitive of late-eighties glam. Even though grunge’s popularity was declining in its overt form by the end of the nineties, it planted the rhetorical seeds from which both nü-metal and pop punk would subsequently flourish. Ironically enough, all three of these styles were the dominating forms of guitar music throughout the nineties, a fact lending itself to the reality that the outlooks and lifestyles the artists would publicly decry were actually embraced behind the scenes. The backstage hedonism was just as “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” as that which came before. In any event, regardless of how hypocritical it was, it remained hip around the turn of the millennium to denounce the likes of Axl Rose.
This meant that BUCKCHERRY truly was going against the grain in terms of both sound and attitude when it released its 1999 self-titled debut. Driven by the stadium-friendly single “Lit Up”, “Buckcherry” was chock-full of unabashed party music that celebrated good times. The California crew would stumble with its sophomore effort, 2001’s “Time Bomb”, which led to its breakup the following year. Frontman Josh Todd and lead guitarist Keith Nelson would reform the band with a new lineup before releasing their comeback album—the well-received “15”—which featured the hit song “Crazy Bitch” in 2006. The band has stuck to its guns since then; however, the output has been mediocre at best. And with Nelson departing the band in 2017, Todd remains the band’s only original member. BUCKCHERRY now returns in 2019 with “Warpaint”, an effort that has some good songs and fleetingly desirable hard rocking moments but is otherwise another testament to the act’s continued trajectory of mediocrity.
Nelson‘s absence is noticeable and unfortunate. Without his presence, the songs clearly seem hollow, something that could have been remedied even marginally had they included more tracks on each song. Though limited in range, Todd‘s charming, idiosyncratic voice serves as the album’s focal point, especially on the utterly infectious “Bent”. However, his verses are much more impassioned and interestingly patterned compared to the spiritless choruses that seem designed for radio airplay rather than for the most important purpose of being good. But in spite of that general assessment, and ironically enough, one of the album’s strongest points is “Radio Song”, a soothing, catchy ballad that certainly has chart-climbing potential. Elsewhere, even though the rhythm section marches too quickly in a manner that sucks a bit of the song’s soul out, the cover of NINE INCH NAILS’ anthemic “Head Like A Hole” stands out as a highlight as they press the industrial classic through BUCKCHERRY‘s signature sleaze radio rock style and sound.
In retrospect, BUCKCHERRY‘s significance hasn’t been that great. Sure, they’ve made a name for themselves with the strength of a handful of singles, and they’ve toured with juggernauts like AC/DC and KISS. While they deserve credit for challenging the mold and standard during the early days, the bulk of BUCKCHERRY‘s material has been lackluster. “Warpaint” proves that nothing has changed.