[HOT TRACK]Back in recording studio, Bon Jovi does dead cat act

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[HOT TRACK]Back in recording studio, Bon Jovi does dead cat act

There used to be something friendly and naive about Jon Bon Jovi. His good looks and charm were irresistible, and his band made music that just about everybody could relate to, apart from your cynical, hard-core heavy-metal fans. But take a look at the cover of Bon Jovi's latest album and you'll see a group with a very different impression of itself -- Bon Jovi and his cronies, behind sunglasses and grim countenances, are portrayed as formidable guitar gods breathing rarefied air on rock's Mount Olympus.

Bon Jovi distinguised itself on the rock scene by focusing more on melodies than virtuoso guitars or explosive drums. From its self-titled debut album in 1984, this New Jersey-based quartet has had a solid foundation of loyal fans, and has strung together one multimillion-selling record after another. Its latest, "Bounce," is the band's seventh to come out of the studio.

Despite the band's longevity, its course hasn't always been smooth. One distraction has been Jon Bon Jovi's stab at an acting career. The thing that's been there all along, though, has been the trademark Bon Jovi style -- featuring Bon Jovi's appealingly throaty vocals and an unabashed use of keyboards.

On "Bounce," the band leans more toward the guitars; still, the results aren't powerful enough to convert the head-banging cynics. Bon Jovi's vocals seem a little weak, which may explain the stronger emphasis on the strings. Bon Jovi can still croon as well as ever, but his voice fails to proceed to the impressive crescendos that made him famous.

The new album opens with a mediocre track, "Undivided," followed by an impressive guitar display by Richie Sambora on "Every Day." Indeed, Sambora is the lone bright spot on this album; perhaps he was busy improving his musical skills while Bon Jovi was padding his filmography.

After that, though, there's not much to look forward to. "The Distance" sounds dated. "Hook Me Up" is conspicuously uncatchy. "Joey" and "Open All Night" are catchy, but barely so. The big ballad this time, "All About Lovin' You," doesn't have the staying power of an "Always." And the title track is another dud, boring you with a repetitive guitar on top of feeble vocals.

If there is to be a bounce back to Bon Jovi's days of glory, fans will have to keep waiting.

by Chun Su-jin

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