Album: Bon Jovi, The Circle (Mercury)

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The Independent Culture

With an average of a new studio album every two years so far this century, few bands could challenge Bon Jovi as the most dependably prolific rockers on the planet.

But while that reliability has translated into huge live audiences – they were last year's biggest tour draw – it's perhaps been at the cost of that indefinable spark that might have made The Circle special, rather than merely competent. The single "We Weren't Born To Follow" is typical, with general sentiments of comradely resistance pumped up by steroid riffs featuring a choppy, Edge-style guitar figure. Elsewhere, similarly weary rock clichés are wheeled out with little inspiration or impact: "Fast Cars" offers an automotive romantic metaphor about the "highway of life", "Bullet" lazily compares street violence with geopolitical war, and "Work For The Working Man" sounds like Bruce Springsteen without the poetry and narrative drama. It all sounds utterly bogus, a sackful of platitudes harnessed to big, U2-style stadium-rock riffs. In "Brokenpromiseland", for instance, the fuzzy desire to escape despair leads to absurd contradictions in lines such as "There's hope I know, out on that lonely road/'Cause home is where you are and where I am". Huh? So is hope out on the road, or at home?

Download this We Weren't Born To Follow; Love's The Only Rule