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HONEYMOON SUITE Alive

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Friday, February 23, 2024 @ 10:44 AM


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HONEYMOON SUITE
Alive

Frontiers Music Srl




Growing up near Burlington, Vermont, back in the '80s, I got a steady diet of HONEYMOON SUITE - not to mention HELIX, CONEYHATCH, etc. and of course RUSH, TRIUMPH, APRIL WINE and, cough!, Corey Hart - thanks to the strong signal of Montreal's CHOM.fm and its Canadian content rules. And while my tastes have grown exponentially harsher, I always had an, umm, sweet spot for HONEYMOON SUITE, who had a knack for ear-wormy hooks and rocked just hard enough to grab my attention, which at the time was already gravitating toward MOTORHEAD, METALLICA and SLAYER.

But after relocating to Connecticut and then to D.C., it was like HONEYMOON SUITE never existed - or at least had disappeared after 1986's The Big Prize, the band's second album which earned some MTV exposure for "Feel It Again", and later saw "Bad Attitude" featured in an episode of Miami Vice. And while I still manage to catch a HONEYMOON SUITE tune or two from time to time when I have iTunes playing on random, I figured the band had given up the ghost years ago.

So, I was rather shocked, and more than a bit skeptical, when I started getting press releases about a new album from the band. And I was even more shocked, and rather embarrassed, to then find out that HONEYMOON SUITE had, for the most part, remained a going concern for all these years, with seven albums to its credit, even if the last one was 2008's Clifton Hill. But a nine-track EP, Hands Up, was issued in 2016, and a couple new singles have emerged over the last couple years.

Indeed, though it had splintered at one point, the "core" HONEYMOON SUITE lineup of frontman/guitarist Johnnie Dee, guitarist Derry Grehan, bassist Gary Lalonde and drummer Dave Betts has been back together for nearly 20 years, having been joined by "new" keyboardist Peter Nunn in the early 2000s. So Alive is certainly an apt title for album No. 8.

I can't speak much for the band's post-Big Prize output but having played that album back-to-back with Alive over the past few days, it sounds like HONEYMOON SUITE has managed to carry forward its classic hard rock over the years, while giving it a bit of modern gussying up. The overall sound feels like a genuine, natural progression, with a few added flourishes, and the songs are just as good as they were in the olden days, so to speak.

Alive may be less feisty and muscular than the HONEYMOON SUITE I was used to - leaning a bit more toward "melodic rock" than "hard rock", which is partly a reflection of the album's slick production - but it still offers plenty of thrills over its undeniably solid, and very tidy, collection of 10 tracks. Split fairly evenly among buoyant rockers, poppier numbers and sometimes romantic/sometimes somber balladry, Alive is relentlessly catchy yet played with more than enough conviction to cut through the polish.

Leading the way is Dee, whose voice is as resonant as ever, its clarity and smokiness retained in equal measure even after 40-some years. He sounds fantastic, and the rough edges he brings elevate more understated tunes like "Broken", "Not Afraid To Fall" or the very LEPPARD-ish "Love Comes" and give them bite. And the raw emotion he conveys on "Doesn't Feel That Way", accompanied by mournful slide guitar and strings, makes closing the album with a ballad a bold move.

That's not to imply Alive is "wimpy". The title track opens things with a propulsive, almost new wavey shimmer, something HONEYMOON SUITE circles back to on "Tell Me What You Want" with its prominent keyboards and electronic percussion. More emphatic are "Give It All" and "Livin' Out Loud", powered by LaLonde and Betts' punchy rhythms, and the swaggering "Done Doin Me", which is punctuated either by horns or synths mimicking them. So, while Grehan's riffs and hooks may not be as assertive as they were back in the day, there is still enough heft to go around.

Dunno if I'd necessarily consider Alive a comeback album. It's more of a reminder that not only is HONEYMOON SUITE still around, but remains a viable, engaging act that can deliver quality hard(ish) rock like it did way back when. And it makes for a fine way for discovering - or rediscovering, as the case may be - the band.

3.5 Out Of 5.0


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