AUG - Be Careful What You Wish For...
Release Date: June 1, 2014
Record Label: Self-Released
There is perhaps no genre that is more a relic of its time than 1980s hair metal. Frequently disparaged and openly mocked for its blatantly overproduced and over-commercialized sheen, hair metal gets next to no respect from modern listeners. There are still fans, of course: Butch Walker, my favorite singer/songwriter, got his start playing lightning fast guitar solos as part of a hair metal act; Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo also had a hair metal stage, and he and Walker even met on the sunset strip—the hub of metal in the 1980s—on their respective trips to the top. And then there’s Chuck Klosterman, who in 2001 wrote a wildly entertaining book called Fargo Rock City, which discussed the rise and fall of glam metal acts like Guns N' Roses, Motley Crue, Kiss, Van Halen—as well as Klosterman’s own relationship to the music—in riotously entertaining detail.
Today, the glam metal influence has mostly vanished from pop music. Flashes of it have cropped up all over the place, from the ubiquitous adrenaline of The Darkness and “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” to the shrieks of one-time American Idol runner-up American Idol, Adam Lambert. But for the most part, this genre is dead, which makes AUG’s Be Careful What You Wish For... that much more surprising as a record. A Guns N' Roses-esque glam metal record through and through, Be Careful What You Wish For... doesn’t sound like it belongs in this decade, which is, in large part, what actually makes it enjoyable.
Those who know me would be surprised to see that I’m reviewing anything with any sort of “metal” designation. But while I don’t generally like the more “hardcore” and less melodic direction the genre has taken as of late (there are exceptions, like Mastodon’s excellent Once More 'Round the Sun, from last month), I actually have a soft spot for the days of 80s hair metal, and it’s not just because one of my biggest idols had his roots in the style. From the rapidfire displays of technical guitar wizardry to the sky-high vocal delivery, all the way to the comically overproduced and larger-than-life nature of it all, I’d say glam metal is a genre that, as a whole, gets a bad rap.
AUG serve up satisfying glam-infused slices in two of those three categories. The missed opportunity is the vocals: the frontman, who confusingly just calls himself “AUG,” is a fine enough vocalist, but his limited range keeps Be Careful What You Wish For... from truly lifting off as the shameless 80s throwback it wants to be. There are no window-shattering shrieks here. Instead, AUG comes across more as a 90s alt-rock frontman (Dave Grohl is the most obvious comparison) than he does as a vocal-cord-shredding shrieker, a la Axl Rose. It’s the one factor that keeps Be Careful What You Wish For... from being a carbon copy imitation of Appetite for Destruction, which could be a good or bad thing depending on what you are looking for in this album.
Then again, AUG’s Grohl-esque delivery actually makes the band’s sound more diverse and versatile than one might expect from the album’s decidedly 80s-leaning RIYL (Ozzy Osbourne, Guns, Iron Maiden, and Kiss). While many of the record’s songs are built from exactly the kind of speed guitar soloing you would expect from a band with those influences (songs like “The Devil’s Rejects,” where talented lead guitarist Tommy Shugar just gets to wail), stuff like “Light of Day” actually keeps the record fun instead of allowing it to get tired or repetitive. The song is as perfect an encapsulation of 1990s garage rock as anything from the last Foo Fighters LP, an album that itself aspired to be a throwback in virtually every way. It’s a sunny slice of alt-rock, giving AUG his best vocal performance on this disc—his more limited range lends itself well to this straight-ahead melodic rock style—while still allowing Shugar to spit off a few anthemic guitar licks. If the band wants to gain a following, “Light of Day” is the template they should follow on their next record.
There are other, less-successful departures from the hair metal sound throughout the second half of the record, like the atmospheric drone of “Forever: Goodbye,” or the bizarre, drum-heavy cover of Toto’s “Africa.” For the most part, though, Be Careful What You Wish For... is structured just like so many records from the 80s were: with it’s best tracks up front, where they are most likely to be noticed. From the surging hook of the opening title track, to the wistful nineties nostalgia of “Light of Day,” the first four or five tracks of Be Careful What You Wish For... showcase a band with plenty of talent and at least a handful of songs worth remembering. Chances are that their best music is in front of them, but for now, AUG will at very least be on my radar as a band to watch.