Bon Jovi

Crush (Island); Samantha 7 (Portrait/C2 Records)

The main difference between these discs is that one doesn't suck nearly as badly as it ought to, while the other does -- and then some. In the mondo-suckage category, Bon Jovi's latest proves nothing other than that the purveyor of some of the most delectable ear candy of the '80s might want to give some thought to a day job (and preferably one other than acting: If Jon Bon Jovi is as fine a thespian as his female co-stars seem fond of boasting, why do his flicks have less chance of getting into a theater than the descendants of John Wilkes Booth?). The only listenable cut here is "Just Older," an anthemic affirmation of the singer's elder-statesman status that succeeds through a degree of honesty that's sorely lacking in the CD's other selections. "It's My Life," for instance, layers Backstreet Boys-style production values over a rant so hollow it references not only Frank Sinatra's recording of "My Way," but also Bon Jovi's own composition "Living on a Prayer." Likewise, "Captain Crash & the Beauty Queen From Mars" borrows so much Bowie mojo that you half expect Iman to fuck it. In "Two Story Town," on the other hand, the former Jersey boy reverts to the small-bore Springsteen he's always been at heart. Along with hankie-fests such as "Thank You for Loving Me," Crush also contains a couple of plastic paeans to ball-busting babes whose dysfunction frequently passes for complexity in the adolescent imagination (see "Mystery Train" and "She's a Mystery"). To be fair, both band and singer deserve props for trying to keep their music somewhat marketable approximately a decade after anybody really cares. Unfortunately, though, one of this CD's prime disappointments is the way it reveals how much Jon Bon Jovi's distinctive wail is like that of Who howler Roger Daltrey: Its success back in the day is paralleled only by its astonishing failure to adapt to subsequent musical and lyrical settings.

Unlike Bon Jovi, string-stretcher and prodigal Poison co-founder C. C. DeVille -- the driving force behind Samantha 7 -- has nothing to say and seems damn proud of it. Telegraphing their intentions like a sucker-punch from wrestling alpha-heel Triple H, the eleven songs on Samantha 7's debut fly by in a burst of blazing guitars and bouncy tempos of the type rarely heard since one of the Goo Goo Dolls discovered he was a hottie. In its stronger selections, which include "Bonnie Bradley" and "Seane Girl," Samantha 7 parlays DeVille's three-note vocal range, his ten nimble digits, and his penchant for amusing self-deprecation into satisfying slices of pure power pop. In similar fashion, "Slave Laura," a whip-wielding fetishist fatale, sounds like a lot more fun than the tarts that fuel Bon Jovi's testosterone-inspired reveries. At their worst, Samantha 7's tunes grow tiresome quickly, as is evidenced by the dirge-like "Bury Me" and the vapid "Hanging Onto Jane." But with nary a number lasting longer than two and a half minutes, at least the doldrums pass quickly.

 
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