After a decade on the music scene, Sponge’s latest release, “The Man,” represents a shift from radio-friendly hard rock to fan-pleasing live anthems.”The Man,” released on Dallas-based Idol Records, carries many of the same glam-rock anthemic hooks of its older material that drew comparisons to Grunge-era bands like Spacehog and Alice in Chains. Under many of the tunes, however, there is an added influence of detuned nu-metal groups.
The band’s sound is unique in some tunes, while others drift into the generic 3 Doors Down and Nickelback style that saturates the music scene today.
In similar fashion, many of the tunes have very strong vocals that fit perfectly, while other songs seem vocally anemic.
The band seems willing to take risks in its performance, and sometimes it doesn’t work.
The album’s flaws, however, give the feel of a live performance more so than an album.
Most bands lose the raw, unpolished sound within a few albums under label pressure to produce hit songs. Idol seems to have given Sponge the freedom to produce an album that allows the band to explore new directions and expand its sound.
The end result may not give the band a place on the charts, but it will give fans a studio album with the energy of a live performance — something even its first releases didn’t deliver.
Close your eyes while listening to “The Man” and you can almost smell the sweat and smoke intermingling in a small concert hall filled with enough people to give a fire marshall an aneurysm.
“The Man” feels much more genuine than the polished music that makes the Billboard charts.
Any fan of 90s Grunge should get this album if only for the sake of hearing an old favorite reinvented to both please fans and remain relevant in the stale music scene of the 21st century.
– Brian Chatman