Knights in white satin return to reach back to yesterday yet let go of here and now.
Four and a half decades after their glorious beginning and two scores years since their last studio platter saw the light of day, the American glam heroes mustered the strength to lay down a new album. Helmed by the group’s founding fathers Frank DiMino and Punky Meadows, “Risen” is a fine set of by-the-numbers numbers that tap into past much more explicitly than any aficionado would hope for – to an extent where it becomes the record’s main feature – even though trying to be relevant and arranging a nostalgia journey should ultimately prove impossible. There’s no need for a Zappa ridicule, of course, but some songs border on hilarious in their bluster, and the 74-minute duration can hardly help with solidifying the blow the veterans land on the listener when they capture the spirit of yore.
Still, the sextet do so not on the fresh cuts of “Angel Theme” and “Tower” which bookend the album, referencing their eponymous debut; instead, they dedicate “1975” to the same time frame and let this little prog-tinged epic drift down memory lane, stating that “the spirit’s still alive” while their honeyed harmonies seem to show disinterest in keeping of the flame. And why, really, when reminiscences serve the ensemble all too well – only what’s the point of the new record, then? It has its moments, especially when it’s heavy, with organ supporting a six-string attack, but whereas “Slow Down” – another arms-flaunting belter whose start-stop flow borrows lyrics from a certain Larry Williams classic – and “Shot Of Your Love” are truly irresistible, the histrionic, arena-sized bravado of “(Punky’s Couch Blues) Locked, Cocked, Ready To Rock” or “We Were The Wild” is jarring, unlike the assault of “Our Revolution” that’s saved by the singer’s sincerity.
Unfortunately, most of the pieces are generic enough to feel familiar – “Desire” being simply faceless, if glittery – despite the robust rifferama on “Under The Gun” and other sweetly belligerent tracks, which DiMino’s voice delivers as convincingly as it does on “Don’t Want You To Go”: the pinnacle of the group’s latter-day AOR panache. They’re here to stay, ostensibly, yet there must be more substance to make this comeback viable.