This Apple Isn’t So Sweet
Sometimes, the darkest moments in life turn out to be a turning point towards something pretty great. Tragedy can stimulate creativity. John Petkovic found this out for himself after his mom died. He headed east and found himself on the Vermont doorstep of his friend Dave Sweetapple. Sweetapple called his friend J. Mascis to jam and the musical sparks started flying. Before you know it, you have another rock supergroup on your hands; Mascis (vocals/guitar) is well known as the front man of Dinosaur Jr., Petkovic (vocals/guitar) comes from Cobra Verde and Guided by Voices, and Sweetapple (bass) plays with stoner rock band Witch. When you mix it all together you get a metallic, hard-rocking and cathartic record with legs on Love & Desparation.
It’s tempting to dismiss supergroups, but we know from success stories like Them Crooked Vultures, Eagles of Death Metal and The Dead Weather that playing musical chairs with talented and seasoned rockers sometimes strikes gold. Strangely, opener “Do You Remember” is far from indicative of the rest of the record. Its energy is contagious with breakneck drumming, relentless guitar shredding and Petkovic’s vocals straining to be heard over the retro rock sound. Earlier heavy rock bands from the ’70s and ’80s are easily detectable on this one: AC/DC, KISS, and Thin Lizzy come to mind.
But deeper in lie slower, bluesier tracks that surprise like “It’s Over Now,” with its clean and simple guitar strums during the verses and a more energetic chorus with Petkovic crooning “‘Cuz it’s gone, yeah it’s gone.” These songs have an undercurrent of sadness but they’re not all directly about grief and loss. “Can’t See You” follows with a Pixies-flavored tinny guitar and a beautifully executed, soaring guitar solo at the finish. A more feel-good, foot-stomping churner, “Hold Me, I’m Dying” is one of the album’s stunners with the lyric “So let’s fuck fuck fuck fuck ’til we die,” sounding a little like the sleaze rockers Eagles of Death Metal.
Petkovic and Company have put together one of the strongest hard rock records in recent memory. Though certain moments have a heavy metal feel to them, there’s a lot of variation and finesse displayed throughout the album, giving fans of each respective band, and new fans, lots to settle in with.