Sunday, January 8, 2012

"Bigger, Better, Faster" and "More" than What?! Four Non-Blondes Disappoint With Their Breakout Album.

The Good: Has one good song!
The Bad: Voice, Overall sound, Lyrics
The Basics: Bigger, Better, Faster, More! by Four Non-Blondes is a disappointment considering how good the single "What's Up?" was.

Because of my conservative buying strategy for compact disks - a system I didn't have when I was a teenager still buying cassettes - I was rather unsurprised when I decided not to update my copy of Four Non-Blonde's Bigger, Better, Faster, More! from cassette to c.d. I originally bought the album based on the strength of "What's Up?" the high-charting single that was a pop-rock song that told the story of getting up in the morning, feeling ambivalent and wondering "What's Goin' on?"

Outside that song, the album doesn't have much going for it. What's not over the top trying too hard rock ("Calling All the People") is just bland pop ("Superfly"). That is to say that "What's Up" was pretty much a solid pop-rock song and that is where 4 Non Blondes found some measure of success. The reason, I suspect, this group had only the one hit off this album is that the remainder of the tracks tend to be much heavier rock songs. That is the sound is incongruent with what one expects to hear coming off of "What's Up?"

4 Non Blondes lacks any originality. They sound in some ways like a female version of the Goo Goo Dolls, a garage band that knows about three chords and one drum routine. The band uses strong, thrashing guitars, but has little musical talent beyond that. Then again, they do use the piano occasionally, but even on that there's a limited range or evidence of ability. The drums seem relegated to basic beat-keeping and the drummer has little real talent. Instead, the drums often drown out the songs and guitars with simple, ridiculous whacking.

The lead vocals tend to be scratchy, which is no surprise given the sound of "What's Up?" However, it's a sound that gets tired quite quickly to the point that when "Morphine And Chocolate" comes up, it's hard not to be sick and tired of the lead singer's voice. Indeed, she lacks real range as well. The songs all tend to be the lower alto and tenor range with one or two off-key notes in the soprano range. But she has an unrefined, unsophisticated sound that comes across as more clumsy than stylish.

Add to that, the instrumentals are loud and most of the songs aren't well written or well played. While "Superfly" uses fairly decent guitars, it's overcome by the track "Train" which is simply a jumble of guitars, drums and noise. None of the tracks, including the all right "What's Up?" display any real musical talent. Some are quickly repetitive (like "Pleasantly Blue") and lack any real tune or catch.

It's hard to even speculate on how the band received studio support to create this album - their sound isn't especially unique and there's nothing particularly harmonious on the album outside "What's Up?" And if that's not bad enough, their lack of talent is repeated over and over again with each track sounding pretty much like the one that preceded it.

4 Non Blondes' debut sounds like a garage band still in the garage. It lacks maturity and focus or any real musical discipline. I suspect, more than personal matters between band mates, this is why the group did not last terribly long. It's also why this album is not worth your time or investment.

For other fiercely independent women in rock, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Educated Guess - Ani DiFranco
South - Heather Nova
Promised Land - Dar Williams


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2012, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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