Released in September
Sadly, Dokken is not so rockin' any more. It's a step up from their last album, 2008's forgettable Lightning Strikes Again, but the hard rock band's latest release sounds like the product of an outfit that is both going through the motions and whose songwriting skills have deteriorated dramatically since their 80s heyday. So it's probably for the best, then, that this looks like it'll be the last Dokken album, as frontman Don Dokken recently told Classic Rock magazine. Studio album number eleven, Broken Bones, finds yet another new configuration of musicians in a band that's had a perpetually increasing number of lineups over their career. The only constants have been founding members Dokken (who by now has lost a ton of his high end vocal range) and drummer Mick Brown, who made news this past summer by getting arrested for a drunken golf cart-stealing escapade after a gig he played with Ted Nugent (click the link for the amusing details and Brown's even more amusing mug shot). Newest addition Sean McNabb, a hard rock journeyman bassist, joins guitarist Jon Levin, who has been with the group for almost a decade and interestingly also pulls double duty as their lawyer.
Levin's playing is probably the best thing about Broken Bones, which is steeped in cliched lyrics and song titles that point to the album's mostly uninspired vibe. Granted, Dokken have never been singled out for their lyrical depth or originality, but one look at titles like "Best Of Me", "The Victim Of The Crime", "Burning Tears", "Today", "For The Last Time", "Fade Away", and "Tonight" gives you an idea of what you're in for before a note is heard. Mostly sticking with the Dokken topical staple of relationships gone sour, a lot of the lyrics are no better: Still these broken bones within my soul remain/Even as your shadow slowly slips away ("Broken Bones"); Sweet little sister, what have you done?/Sweet little sister, are you still on the run? (and some other such nonsense involving tears tasting like bitter rain in the song "Fade Away"). You get the idea. Dokken's musical ideas are, for the most part, only slightly better than Broken Bones' trite prose, with album highlights "For The Last Time" and "Fade Away" injecting a bit of life into things following a sleepy mid-album stretch. The former's effective quiet/loud and slow/fast dynamic stands out on an album overloaded with mid-tempo material and features some George Lynch-worthy guitar soloing from the impressive Levin. Following a burning album opener in "Empire" that demonstrates Dokken's knack of usually producing memorable results when they ratchet up the pace and heaviness level, someone inexplicably decided to bunch three of those mid-tempo songs together (the title track, "Best Of Me", and "Blind"), killing Broken Bones' out-of-the-gate momentum with material that feels completely interchangeable.
Broken Bones has a small handful of quite fine moments, but is mostly saddled with the kind of filler-heavy material the band has been padding their albums with for their entire career. Look elsewhere for your melodic hard rock fix.
Related post: my 2009 blog entry featuring the hilarious "Dokken vs. Chicken" commercial the band did for software company Norton