Dokken see their future in their youth

Usually, one can never hide one’s age for long. Especially when one has a certain past and finds it difficult to come to terms with it. Nowadays, the rule seems to be the following: the bigger and more unsightly it is, the more you have to hide it (don’t make me write down the few exceptions you’re all thinking about). Silly, but that’s the way it is – and the number of years on the clock is no exception. You can always try to dress like a younger person or have your entire body remodeled, in the end, it’s nothing but packaging and lies. Tricks and artifices will never look natural. And even if they could, you need only open your mouth – not to have the person opposite smell your breath, even if that can be a clue – to betray exactly how far your past is stretching behind you. For age is also, for a big part, a thing of the mind.

In short, as I was saying, one can’t hide one’s age for long. That piece of wisdom could also be used to describe Dokken’s latest album, Broken Bones. The moment of truth happens after three minutes and forty-two seconds, plus about ten seconds, the time it takes to discover the booklet, take the record out of its case, put it on the turntable and press Play (speaking of age, these few words have just betrayed mine). After all, only old people spend their time complaining of fragile bones (“Broken Bones”), failing sight (“Blind”), stinging eyes (“Burning Tears”), incontinence problems (“Waterfall”) and rheumatism.

At first, it really does look like Dokken is trying to fool the audience. Starting with that simplistic cover artwork, which shows a slightly kitsch skull on a black pirate flag and that seems to come straight from the 80s. Not to mention the color scheme, reminiscent of the great classic Back For The Attack. No one has forgotten Don Dokken’s statement from a year ago, when he said the band was working on “very fast and heavy” material for this album. And then there was also this compilation of re-recorded hits, dully titled Greatest Hits – or Anthems, depending on the country – and released amidst total indifference. There’s nothing wrong with contenting oneself with what one does best, by the way. The album starts with the steady, riff-heavy “Empire”, which could easily come from one of the band’s older records. But even then, Don Dokken’s restraint casts doubt. After all, in his younger days, the vocalist never hesitated to push his voice, making him one of the greatest singers of the 80s.

As early as the second track, this restraint infects the instruments, which become lighter in rhythm, more languorous in expression. They stop trying too hard to sound incisive, which appears to be more coherent with the frontman’s performance. For the length of an entire song, Dokken tries to pretend he can do what he used to do in his younger years, before realizing he now lacks the breath.

Broken Bones goes on in a “cushy” way, slugging forward to avoid spraining an angle, while still making the most of a know-how that can only come from years of experience. But the band are still very much looking behind them, nostalgia in their eyes – except for a brief and surprising low chord at the end of “Empire”. “We know that our fans like the classic Dokken sound, and that’s what we’re aiming for”, said Don Dokken last year, aware that, despite their attempts at going forward, which the audience dismissed (too) quickly, his band was mainly living on past successes. In this respect, it seems surprising that he didn’t go further with his motivations by agreeing in 2012 to reunite the band’s original line-up, with George Lynch and Jeff Pilson. For their part, these two seem to be in rather good form (or at least the guitarist is, judging from Lynch Mob and their Smoke And Mirrors from 2009). But when personalities clash, goodwill is not always enough, especially when the team in place remains very capable.

To summarize, Broken Bones is the story of a mature band – even if Don Dokken is clearly at the tiller – telling their story, with a few inevitable lapses of memory. It’s pleasant to hear, but it won’t fail to make young people, who need to have their attention constantly called upon, a little sleepy. In this respect, Dokken is diametrically opposed to at least one of their contemporaries, Europe, who completely accept their age, as well as their era. Some people see their future ahead of them, while others keep thinking their future is behind. Two different perspectives – it’s up to everyone to decide which fits them best.

Broken Bones will be released on September, 21st, 2012 via Frontiers Records.

Translation by Saff’

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