Album review: STEVE BONINO – Peace Rocks

 Self release – www.stevebonino.com – out now

They say you should always start with your best and balance things out afterwards. Well Steve Bonino obviously missed that initial piece of advice, as this excellent album builds from an inauspicious opener into a superbly produced collage of sounds.  There’s vibrant playing, layered harmonies, compelling hooks and the kind of social messages that still resonate 4 decades after Woodstock.

The exclamatory titled ‘Peace Rocks’ is as relevant to the music as it is to the heartfelt messages that populate a great album. All the more curious then, that the opening ‘Peace March’ is the only misjudged track, as the jaunty instrumental gives way to a military call and response with a lyrical twist.  The low key beginning gives the aptly titled ‘Wake Up Call’ a sharper focus. The pounding rhythm track is coloured by a repeated chanted hook and the kind of ascending vocal swoops that are a feature of the album as a whole.

‘Peace Rocks’ is a curious and unique album full of 60’s slogans delivered via 80’s style multi tracked vocals with booming choruses that could be Todd Rundgren, while the understated psychedelic feel is late career Beatles. Each track emphasizes different nuances with a succession of catchy hooks that imbue the album with a startling dynamic.

The stop-start manic rhythms and fractured riff driven brilliance of ‘God Sex Money’ delivers the killer refrain: ‘God, sex, money make the world go round and I like it’ and Steve adds a short angular solo and staccato finish for good measure. Barely pausing for breath, he slips into the more lushly produced ‘Construction’ which makes potent use of another Rundgren style call and response thematic hook. Both the melody and chorus stay with you long after the song has finished in an interwoven musical tapestry that gives the album its depth.

Each track leads into another subtle layer, suggesting he’s spent hours working on the vocals and production. The beautifully tracked vocals and funky rhythm of the outstanding ‘Personal Revolution’ is an album highlight. The choppy, funky guitar line and synth motif sounds like the best of The Fixx in the late 80’s. Hell, this guy has almost arrived on the scene 20 years too late and yet the music still sounds fresh and vibrant.

He tears into another riff driven piece with a rumbling bass on ‘Dyin For Love’. The repetitive hook and short sharp solo is guaranteed to get you singing along, while the way the ascending vocal melds into the chorus is a thing of real beauty. The restless vocal and choppy accompaniment almost conveys a feeling of disconnection, but the whole piece works brilliantly as a multi layered slice of pop-rock.

‘Rose Colored Glasses’ is a short vocal link-piece before an acoustic intro leads into the blunderbuss of the self explanatory ‘Big Brother’. It’s another song full of baby boomer themes enhanced by a killer arrangement full of layered harmonies.

‘Peace Rocks’ is the kind of  album that makes you wonder just how long Steve has stored up his significant musical and production ideas that form such an integral part of this joyous musical journey. The lyrics to ‘Will The World Mourn?’ could have been written in the late 60’s, but the rich harmony vocals and deft production map out a unique style that makes this album so special. You may not dig everything, but there are so many sparkling riffs, catchy hooks, sing-along moments and fist pumping hooks, that this is an album you can easily come back to subconsciously.

The acoustic driven eco-rant of ‘Paradise Lost’ is another vocal triumph, before he wraps things up with an unaccredited backing vocalist, on the kind of unabashed chanted message ‘Peace, Love, Truth And Understanding’ that sits easily with what has gone before. Just as the album title suggests, ‘Peace Rocks’!

**** (4/5)

Review by Pete Feenstra


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