For Dinosaur Jr. fans “The Golden Age of Glitter” at first may sound like a big departure for J Mascis and his cohorts. Thankfully, it doesn’t stray too much from the formula to keep fans from enjoying the experience. Sweet Apple provide a dose of classic rock that has a few twists and turns along the way. The band consists of two members of neo-glam metal band Cobra Verde Tim Parnin and John Petkovic as well as Dave Sweetapple himself who played with Mascis in Witch. The Golden Age of Glitter marks their return and this is their second full length album to date.
Sweet Apple’s previous excursion was an LP titled Love and Desperation, which was met with mixed reviews. Many felt it was underwhelming and that it was a one trick pony. This time around they have a crafted a much smarter and varied record. This variation comes in the way of a greater balance between electric and acoustic tracks. When recording the album they said it was spread out all over the US. They recorded in California, Massachusetts and Cleveland. Vocalist John Petkovic described the recording process “It is an album about connecting and missing flights, arrivals and departures”. This is also a good analogy for the album itself with some of the tracks landing and others missing the mark.
The first of these missteps per se is the opener titled “Wish You Could Stay (A Little Longer)”. It is the most pop orientated and accessible track on the album by far. There is a sense though that it lacks some of the charm that the other tracks have and comes off as quite generic. The instrumentation on the track is great with a mellow synth lead and jangling guitars which create a soft backdrop. The verse is full of energy and life, but the chorus seems somewhat hollow with a repeated phrase that lacks any conviction. The second track “Reunion” gets things back on track with a more traditional Sweet Apple sound. This track is a definite pool party anthem and is a great blend of classic rock and pop. Lyrically it deals with a class reunion and the cast of characters that comes along with it. The chorus rings out with “Here’s to our reunion, back where it began. This is where it will end, till we reunite again”. The band goes Sgt. Pepper with a fake crowd as if they are playing at the reunion. This is a good example of adding a unique twist to an already stellar track.
“Let’s take The Same Plane” is a good change of pace, it is an acoustic ballad where Petkovic shows off his lower range and a much more passionate vocal. Legendary Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan lends backing vocals near the end of the track and there is also a beautiful backing vocal from Rachel Haden. Interestingly enough Lanegan provides vocals on two tracks that you would not expect him to. The decision is even stranger when the track that’s is directly after “Let’s Take The Same Plane” seems like it would suit him perfectly. This track “Another Desert Skyline” screams for a Mark Lanegan special. His absence is even more glaring because the song sounds like a QOTSA remake with its uncanny similarity to “God Is In The Radio” with its driving drums and dissonant guitar licks. This seems like a missed opportunity where Mark could have given the song an extra edge, rather than it feeling like a failed attempt at desert inspired rock.
“Troubled Sleep” showcases Sweet Apple at their best with classic rock riffs and trashy drums. It makes for an intoxicating blend of 70’s inspired rock and roll. This track best showcases their pop sensibility with a hard rock edge. The chorus gives a lot of room for things to hang with clean guitars and a steady beat. This is the track where Dinosaur Jr. fans will feel most at home satisfying your classic rock fix. Another track which is similar to this is “I Surrender”, although it doesn’t nearly have the same impact as its counterpart. The track feels a bit flat compared to some of the others, stuck in limbo between pop and rock.
Two acoustic tracks appear near the end of the album, which are “We Are Ruins” and “You Made A Fool Out Of Me”. The first of these sounds like a Rolling Stones ballad with a mix of electric and acoustic guitars. The percussion in the background, as well as some interesting lead sounds near the end make it feel like a song created in a hot box. “You Made A Fool Out Of Me” Is more on the blues side of things with the guitar and vocals starting off the track. Vocally Petkovic has a similar rasp to Bono during the Rattle and Hum days. Both of these songs feel like an interesting change of direction, but ultimately lead us down a stray path.
In closing, It seems that Sweet Apple have crafted a much more accessible classic rock sound this time around. Tracks like “Reunion” and “Troubled Sleep” are almost definitely party anthems, but besides these tracks there are few that spark the same sense of nostalgia. “Let’s Take The Same Plane”, is easily the most touching moment on the album. The closer “Under the Liquor Store” has some slick group vocals and has a real 50’s twang. The rest of the tracks are a bit of a mixed bag, sometimes straying to far from the SweetApple sound. Overall though, if you’re looking for some eccentric rock anthems with a pop twist, The Golden Age Of Glitter’s undeniable charm should satisfy your classic rock cravings.