THE SAVAGE PLAYGROUND
Released January 25, 2013 (Frontiers Records)
01. Change The World
02. Cocaine Cowboys
05. Lickin’ Dog
07. Sin City
08. Got A Reason
09. Drinkin’ Without You
10. Snakes In Paradise
11. Damaged Kid
13. Garden of Babylon
iTunes Bonus Track:
14. Liquid Jesus
Simon Cruz – vocals
Martin Sweet – guitar
Peter London – bass
Eric Young – drums
Produced by Otto Welton.
Something amazing has happened ladies and gentlemen — we may have just gotten the album of the year and it’s only the end of January! Yes, you heard me correctly — album of the fricken year! I have been a Crashdiet fan since 2009 and the release of Generation Wild when that furiously devilish album grabbed me by the throat and ripped me a new one. Since then, it has been four long years without new material from one of the most promising bands ‘this side of Hudson Bay’. But finally the wait has ended and now we are inclined to enter the Savage Playground. I will try to make this review as least gushy as possible, but it will be quite difficult seeing as the material on this album has stunned me from the first listening session.
Upon entering the playground, you will immediately be greeted with a more muddled production. But do not let this hold you back because the caliber of these thirteen songs (fourteen if you include bonus track “Liquid Jesus”) are actually enhanced by the production in overall heaviness and sleaze-ability. Walk a few paces into the center of the playground, you will be greeted with a quick but fiery jab in the chest from “Change the World” — a track that leaves you breathless and actually wanting to the change the dreary world of mainstream pop music and instate Crashdiet as the rightful kings of radio. You cannot breathe for a second but you quickly catch your breath when you see the “Cocaine Cowboys” slinking towards you — they’re mean and nasty, but fun and head-banginly good. If you have not heard “Cocaine Cowboys” yet (shame on you and get the hell off this page) they speak of something called ‘Anarchy’ and becoming intrigued you follow them into the sewers beneath the playground itself. There you are greeted with what may be the most fist-pumping, blood boiling anthem of the year. “Anarchy” is short, sweet, and to the point… but it is oh so good! Ahead a light is shimmering, the ‘cowboys’ show a city underground directly underneath the playground. It looks strangely like “California” which has such a killer groove and chorus that you would be damned before leaving.
As you walk the underground city streets, you spot a “Lickin’ Dog” and hear one of the best guitar riffs off the album as well as some of the angriest lyrics Crashdiet has ever dared pen. A “Circus” looms up ahead but you are hesitant to enter. The frenzy of the verses plus the unadulterated fun of the chorus are enough to shake you up and get you running. You run so far that you end up in “Sin City” which feels so ’80s hair metal-tastic and is defiantly the most retro sounding song on the album. Now you “Got A Reason” to stop and listen for a second — the chorus to this one is insanely catchy and the verses crooned by good ole Simon Cruz are almost too sleazy, if that were actually possible. Soon enough, you enter a bar and begin “Drinkin’ Without You” which has one hell of a rhythm and a great solo by none other than Martin Sweet with Eric Young and Peter London frantically dueling alongside.
Suddenly, you spot some “Snakes In Paradise” which is undoubtedly the sexiest and sleaziest anthem Crashdiet has ever written. The chorus is sweet and the vocals are just my cup of hair metal tea. You see across the bar a “Damaged Kid” drinking and you become “Exited” in a hurry to speak with her because she is dazzlingly beautiful. These two songs are just great with some killer riffing, soloing, singing, and of course lyrics going on. Did I forget to mention that the lyrics on this album are outstanding? After drinking your fill, you step back outside and are greeted to a new setting, the daunting and gasoline fueled “Garden Of Babylon”. Now this is how you end an album! Finally a band gets it where they do not need to play pointlessly for seven odd minutes just to end the album on a sour note. Crashdiet have achieved the unthinkable and actually made a sleaze epic with this one! My God, the sheer power of the vocals and chorus is enough to sell me on a band that has never given up even in the face of tragedy.
This album, this playground, is the real deal folks. I cannot quite put into words the happiness I have with finally adding this album to my collection. All I can say is, thank you Crashdiet… thank you so much for changing my world.
Reviewed by Ryan Krol for Sleaze Roxx, February 2013
The band? Crashdiet. The history? Messy. The album? Number four. Crashdiet are a band with a story and a long line of singers — as well as being known for their dedicated, if often overly so, fan-base.
Vocalist Simon Cruz comes with a strong image and a mouthful of swear words that have wound their way into almost every song on The Savage Playground. Starting out with “Change The World”, it feels like they’ve taken the “Riot In Everyone” riff from album number one, chewed it up and spat it out again. Yes, it’s anthemic and rather infectious, but it also feels rushed and a little uncontrolled — it is a strong start, however. The single “Cocaine Cowboys” has a western theme — it’s catchy and contagious though the ‘corruption of the suit and the ties’ idea is getting a little old. This song contains one of Cruz‘s stronger vocal performances though, so savor the moment.
The Savage Playground incoherently jolts through the subsequent tracks — there’s too many effects and layering, producing a chaotic and messy sound. At times, the riffs are barely recognizable and the melodies lacking in Crashdiet‘s old punching memorability. It almost feels like they’re trying to be ballsy and riotous but we’ve been there before with GG Allin, Motley Crue… and even Crashdiet! It’s not about how rebellious a band is, it’s about how new and how different — and it all feels a little amateurish.
“Lickin’ Dog”, smack full of insults, sounds like Sweet and Cruz‘s personal animosities growled out amidst silly effects with a solo that is lacking in skill or style. “Circus” is much better — it’s original and tight, and the clipped vocals emulate the ‘standing in line’ lyric. There’s a much better balance with the rawness of the guitar and the vocals — if they can emulate the musical breaks live, it’ll be brilliantly effective. The veiled backing vocals too work well, not too high or weak like on “Damaged Kid”. Speaking of which, why is there always a song about a girl ending up as a prostitute? The music’s not hard or dirty, despite the fast pace, though it’s more fluid than some of the other tracks. Sweet comes out of his shell a little on “Snakes In Paradise” but the track doesn’t sit well within the coherency of the album. “Garden Of Babylon” was a strange song to end on, especially at seven minutes long — too many effects cloud the sound but I do like Cruz‘s voice here, strained but in a gut-wrenching way… memorable.
The bass is lacking throughout The Savage Playground and the cymbals are too high on most tracks. The band said before the release that they wanted a more raw sound, like a live performance — well it’s raw, but not in the sleazy, punky way you might have hoped for. It has neither the rawness of Rest In Sleaze nor the diversity of Generation Wild. There’s a mix of the evil and emotional lyrics along with some poignant and unusual ones, but for me the CD as a whole was a disappointment. Some if it will stick to you with the strength of the band’s hairspray, but other bits you’ll never want to listen to again.
Reviewed by JJ Lee for Sleaze Roxx, February 2013
What can be said about the Godfathers of the Swedish sleaze scene that hasn’t already been said? They are the biggest band in the world? Obviously not, but in my opinion that should be the case. In an age where selling out is the ‘in thing’, these determined rockers have continued to develop their style whilst staying true to their roots and delivered a giant slab of fiery and energetic ecstasy. The ingredients — hard work, pure devotion and raw talent. The recipe — take all these ingredients and turn it into a modern, original piece of rock history. The outcome — an hour of hellacious, limitless delight of which they aptly named The Savage Playground!
After bursting onto the scene about a decade ago, Crashdiet have struggled to maintain a solid line-up. However, one thing they have not struggled with is keeping their loyal fan base and passion for pure rock ‘n’ roll. Now, with their latest offering, everyone who supported them through thick and thin have a new way to blow their speakers as the band has landed its most stable line-up. The album combines the intensity of Skid Row and the dirty genius of Guns N’ Roses with their own brand of modern sleaze and elements of progressive rock, encompassing everything their name represents.
Just like Generation Wild, the album kicks off with a suspense building introduction, then leads to the body of “Change The World”. The song is almost a throwback to Rest In Sleaze and further back to the likes of Slave To The Grind, building up enough momentum for the next tune, “Cocaine Cowboys”. Whilst this track exhibits glimpses of Cinderella‘s “Fallin’ Apart At The Seams”, it’s certainly the most original tune with its edgy, bluesy grit. “Anarchy” is the most simply written tune here but as it has already been a staple of their live shows for some time now it’s clear this pounding anthem will surely be rocking many more arenas into the future. As we reach the fourth offering from The Savage Playground it brings me to my only real criticism — in my opinion “California” certainly deserved to be offered as the first single. Due to its mainstream content and memorable hooks it truly displays all the appeal of a hit single. “California” features some of the most emotive lyrics and brings a distinct Swedish feel to the glitz and glam of Hollywood. The following contribution, “Lickin’ Dog”, was undoubtedly interesting to say the least. I think it’s safe to say, whilst we’re all still waiting for an out and out ballad from Crashdiet, a bit of humor is something I positively didn’t expect. But it serves as a fresh, racy cleft before the album grows somewhat darker.
“Circus” and “Sin City” are both energetic, driving anthems that seem set for a sing-a-long at gigs to come. The former has a very haunting vibe and flaunts a greater deal of dynamics in the vocals especially while the latter is fuelled with all the dirty sleaze of the late ’80s. The next song, “Got A Reason”, has a more laid back feel to it and incites plenty of nostalgia. Moving on to “Drinking Without You”, which brings back memories of “Tikket” and Skid Row‘s “Forever”, this is certainly the most traditional Crashdiet song as it combines elements from their entire repertoire. “Snakes In Paradise” offers a different kind of riff to the rest and can be best compared to some of Hardcore Superstar‘s more recent work. The use of the violin spices up the chorus and adds to the overall uniqueness to the track. As we approach the end, “Damaged Kid” helps keep the flow of The Savage Playground intact and preserves an elevated interest level. “Excited” is a very relaxed addition with enough fervor to set the listener up for one of the album’s masterpieces, “Garden Of Babylon”. Not only is this the band’s most progressive song to date but also one of the most illustriously constructed compositions, reminiscent of the epic tracks from Use Your Illusion.
The first thing you notice when you listen to The Savage Playground is the length of the album, however thirteen tracks later you’re still begging for more. There is also a stark difference in the lead vocals compared to previous releases — Simon Cruz decides to experiment with some variations in his style and delivers a more intense approach. In doing so I believe this cements his position amongst the top singers of his era. One thing Crashdiet have been famous for is their amazing backing vocals and sweet harmonies, of course there is no difference here, as this is yet another thrilling element. I also noticed Martin Sweet‘s backing vocals seem to be much more prominent than before, which is merely an observation with no form of lament.
The Savage Playground is without a doubt the band’s most thorough and diverse disc yet — well worth the wait. If there’s any justice in the world Crashdiet will soon be earning success comparable to their heroes Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crue!
Reviewed by Alleycat for Sleaze Roxx, February 2013