Friday, October 14, 2016

Review of Nine Days' "Snapshots"

I posted this on the Sputnik Music website earlier this afternoon.

To really tell you the story of this album, I have to start at the end and work my way backwards. That's because the last song is a slightly reworked version of "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)", Nine Days' big hit single from their 2000 album, The Madding Crowd. "Absolutely" was huge, hitting #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #1 on Billboard's Mainstream Top 40 chart. The song appeared on the Dawson's Creek TV show, a popular show with teenagers at the time, where I think many people associated it with the Katie Holmes character Joey Potter. As a Long Islander, I can remember being in Las Vegas at the height of the song's popularity and being proud to hear a local Long Island band played repeatedly all over the country.

In a way, it was a good idea to include the song on the album. The plan, I'm sure, was that it might serve as an extra incentive for potential new fans who don't own the song to pick up the album and get the band's new material and their biggest hit at the same time. The problem is, as soon as those first few notes kick in, it smacks you in the face what's been missing from the rest of the album. If I had the ability to say exactly what it is that makes a hit single, I could probably teach it to bands and make a ton of money. But whatever it is, that extra special something, "Absolutely" had, and still has it. Don't get me wrong, Snapshots is a solid album. It totally has the classic Nine Days sound, and if you've liked the band at all in the past, you're definitely going to find this album enjoyable. But I don't hear an "Absolutely" here, or even necessarily an "If I Am" (the second single off of The Madding Crowd).

"Greenlight" is the song that I think the band is pushing as their new single. It's a song about making the most of the present moment. The song has been growing on me, but to be honest, it's not one of the ones that first jumped out.

If there's a general theme on Snapshots, it's the theme of aging and looking back. And each of the songs that did jump out at me shares in that theme in one way or another.

"Obsolete" is the first song on the album, and it's the one I like best. It has various references to things that are now out of date, like putting a "needle on the record", watching black and white films, sending faxes, and other things that are currently outmoded, as the singer swears to his lover that his love for her is the one thing that will "never be obsolete." The song gets extra credit for the very deliberate synthesizer riffs that give a nod to The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," and for amusing lyrics such as "Superman lost Lois Lane/Because he couldn't find a place to change."

Two other highlights of the album are the title song "Snapshots" and another number called "Conspiracy." "Snapshots" is a song about looking back at your life and remembering the highlights by looking through photographs. "Conspiracy" is another song with clever lyrics, as the singer compares his lost lover to other people who are no longer with us, or who've gone missing, such as Michael Jackson, Jimmy Hoffa, D.B. Cooper and "skinny Elvis".

"Star" is the song that gives away the band's fondest hopes. Here, singer John Hampson laments that while he has a great wife and two kids, and he should be happy, he's not because he still has the dream to be a big rock star. At the end of the song, he tries to bring it back and say that real happiness is that he still gets to play music and at least he's a star to his family. But somehow the lament of those first couple of verses is just a little too real to completely buy the "but it's all good" verse.

I hope I'm wrong about the hit single thing. I've always liked this band, and as a Long Islander, I've always been proud of all they accomplished, and sorry that the record industry kind of screwed them over. In any event, even if they haven't captured that lightning in a bottle again that they did with "Absolutely", Snapshots is a decent and enjoyable album, and I hope that some of you give it a listen.

Rating: 3/5 stars