I'd like to preface this unforutnately negative review by saying that I absolutely LOVE Danko Jones.
While "We Sweat Blood" was just a tad uneven, "Sleep Is The Enemy" and "Born A Lion" are two of my favorite rock n roll albums, and for a while I regarded Danko Jones as a modern-day rock god, a bearer of the torch that so many bands today seem uninterested in carrying.
That is why with a heavy heart I must say that "Never Too Loud" should have been called "Never That Good" because its by a fair amount his worst album yet.
Musically speaking, Danko Jones music was never that complicated, but he knew his way around a great riff, and like AC/DC and Helmet, knew that by punctuating his songs with dead air between riffs, he can make the riffs all the more effective. He had tons of attitute and could bark with the best of him (I love his manic preacher delivery on "Love Is Unkind"), and any overt simplicity in his music was made up for by how much attitude, swagger and groove came with it.
With a few exceptions, "Never Too Loud" lacks all of that. Oh sure, some songs might have a good riff, or lots attitude, or a solid groove, but only one or two seem to have it all together in the same song. "Still In High School" has the attitude, but its a downright ugly riff that clomps along and doesn't really go anywhere. "Something Better" throws down an okay groove but wheres the crunch, the attitude? Far too many songs on this album are like that. The worst musical offender in my eyes is "Forest For The Trees" which features a plodding, downright clumsy riff for SIX WHOLE MINUTES!!! Danko's soulful delivery and the guest singers don't help it at all, either. A riff that bad for that long is just torture.
Lyrically, this is some of his worst stuff. Again, one or two songs get by, but "Still In High School" has Danko pining for his glory days in High School, "King Of Magazines" is about how twisted up he gets looking at a pin up girl, and "Let's Get Undressed" features the lyrics "I want to do it but first I got to find my spine." What happened to the towering colossus of testosterone from "Born A Lion?"
Danko used to be almost cartoonish in his macho, cokk rock swagger, now he's reminiscing about high school, pining for pin-up girls, and being too afraid to confess his feelings for an actual girl? I know guys like that, and they're losers.
Combine that with the weak music, and you have half an album that kinda sucks. Is there any light at the end of this tunnel?
For starters, "Code Of The Road" and "Your Tears My Smile" are both hard hitting and memorable, though they don't beat out any of the songs on "Sleep Is The Enemy."
Other songs are good enough for what they are but just don't feel like Danko. The uplifting rock of "City Streets," the bouncy accoustic pop of "Take Me Home," and the 80's power-pop of "Ravenous" (tell me you can't picture Pat Benetar or Scandal doing "Ravenous") are all decent songs, but it sounds like Danko trying too hard to have a hit. And if he is reaching for commercial success, then why isn't this thing out in the US yet?
The only true knock-out on this whole thing is the title track. "Never Too Loud" is the single best Bon Scott classic that AC/DC never recorded. Its great! The riff just kills, the attitude is there, and the lyrics (not to mention Danko's delivery) just NAILS that slightly comical, devilish delivery that Bon Scott was so great at. None of the other songs on this album come close, and thats a darn shame.
Danko fans should make sure to get their hands and ears on that title track somehow, but the album as a whole is a let down.
Here's hoping he gets it right next time.