Have We Heard This Before?

Before the Sun (Riker Hill Records)

By Kevin Gibson

Equal parts Bon Jovi, Skid Row and Poison, Fixer comes on like - well, a cookie-cutter, 1990s, radio-approved hard-rock band with all the depth of a mud puddle.

Slick production, big choruses and bloated arena-rock hooks are the norm here and it plays like just the kind of thing the guys on your high school football team might have listened to while cruising for chicks. Heck, these long-haired rocker boys even look like they were just kicked out of a Slippery When Wet-era video shoot with their denim jackets, scarves and belt buckles the size of hubcaps.

I don't mean to sound negative; it's just hard to make nice sometimes when this kind of album comes across my desk. Why is this sort of shtick still being done? And why are record labels financing it? The formula of verses that quiet down for somber effect followed by crashing, booming choruses with layers of double-tracked vocals, spliced together by homogenized, Night Ranger-inspired guitar solos is just soooo last Wednesday. Seriously.

Now, that said, if this kind of musical brain dump is your thing, you could do worse than a dose of Fixer; some folks still like melodrama in their rock 'n' roll and that's no skin off my knees. Heck, there's even a big, emotional power ballad called "Down Without It," that manages to use this same formula to present a riveting song about sex, loss, sex and regret. And sex. Break out your lighters, folks, there are gonna be three encores tonight.

Boom! The next song is a balls-out rocker that crashes in with just the kind of overdone, grim-faced, pop-metal assault you'd expect to hear on the soundtrack to a movie about a teen-age runaway with large breasts. "Put massacre on paper/I am the love, the hater/I tried, there's no escaper," bellows the chorus. Not sure what it means, but it sure sounds serious, even if rhyming "paper" with "escaper" might be a bit of a stretch.

Later on, there's "Mixing in With My Blood," which sounds just like - oh yeah, Bon Jovi. And Skid Row. And every other faux-sensitive, hairy-chested, butt-rock band that ever pulled on leotards, stuffed potatoes in their pants, permed their hair up like prom queens, stole their lyrics exclusively from those little valentine candy hearts and then pranced around in front of drunk 16-year-old girls singing echoed three-part harmonies every time the song title needed to be repeated.

I think I've said enough. Once again, this will appeal to a lot of people - particularly if they drive 1989 Camaros and still live with their parents. (Sorry!) It's produced beautifully, though - very crisp, even if it is ridiculously compressed and more watered-down than Bud Light at a Georgia dirt-car track. (Darn it, there I go again!)

In truth, this album may very well be parody. If so, the joke's on me. But I'd be surprised.

Find out more and practice your falsetto (#$%@!!), over at www.fixermusic.com.