Ah yeah, the good ol’ “U.S. of A.” — a country rich in culture — a nation blessed particularly with a rich musical heritage — a legacy that reads like a trustworthy Atlas map. America has given birth to authentic Mississippi blues, New Orleans jazz and Detroit R&B. Then there’s the California soft pop of the ‘60s, abrasive ‘70s New York punk, the ‘80s Athens art scene and the ‘90s Seattle alternative movement — not to mention traditional Texas swing, downhome Nashville country and spicy Miami dance rhythms.
In the late ‘70s, another exciting sound was blowing in from “the Windy City.” Boasting an impressive string of chart-busting albums, and a slew of iconic singles, Cheap Trick are credited frequently as the original architects of “Chicago Power Pop.” Borrowing consistently from the past, this infectious, often brash style continues to inform current trends.
During the punchy, crunchy ‘80s arena rock era, a cavalcade of combos were crashing out from the Chicago scene. While these bands weren’t required (necessarily) to feature a member plucking away at a Tom Petersson-approved eight-string bass guitar, it did enhance the band’s street cred. But there was ONE huge requirement. These Chicago exports had to have BIG songs — tunes with hypnotic hooks, massive melodies and riveting riffs. The two most significant bands to emerge from the scene in those days — Life, Sex & Death (LSD) and Enuff Z’nuff.
Although the 1992 LSD debut, The Silent Majority, would be their only official major label studio slab, the record owns the distinction for possessing some of the best, most hard-hitting pop/rock songs ever to be spewed from the streets of Chi-town. Onstage, they also were an unparalleled live force. However, by 1994, they’d disbanded — RIP LSD.
Conversely, Enuff Z’Nuff achieved enormous success with their first two major label releases — Enuff Z’Nuff (1989) and Strength (1991). The singles, “New Thing,” “Fly High Michelle,” “Mother’s Eyes” and “Baby Loves You” all were transformed into eye-catching, heart-stopping MTV staples and brought the band worldwide acclaim.
Today, Enuff Z’Nuff remain a popular concert attraction, as patriarch bassist, Chip Z’Nuff continues touring and releasing new music with various “evolving” line-ups. And in 2020, Enuff Z’Nuff drops their 15th studio offering, Brainwashed Generation — a sizzlin’ 10-song set featuring newly re-recruited, early era EZ guitarist, Alex Kane. Fervent followers will recognize Kane as the co-founding guitarist of — Life, Sex and Death.
Overall, Brainwashed Generation finds the foursome in fine form, with perennial guitarist Tory Stoffregen and current drummer Daniel Benjamin Hill joining Z’Nuff and Kane. Following the seemingly random 40-second intro, “The Gospel,” the record kicks into gear with the super-snappy, “Fatal Distraction.” Tipping the hat to Cheap Trick’s classic, “Clock Strikes Ten,” this high-octane opener is a prime example of Enuff Z’Nuff doing how they do best.
Equally contagious, “I Got My Money Where My Mouth Is” makes for another noteworthy moment. A melodic, mid-tempo slice of psychedelia, “Broken Love” also is a strong standout, one that might remind some of the band’s more devoted disciples of the vibe revealed in the 2000 album, 10.
Something of an all-star affair, Brainwashed Generation includes special guest appearances from the likes of powerhouse drummers, Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) and Daxx Nielsen (Cheap Trick), as well as celebrated guitarists, Steve Ramone, Brian Ray and KISS co-founder Ace Frehley, who is credited for contributing “inaudible lead guitar” to the otherwise pedestrian “Drugland Weekend.”
For purists, the hidden prize at the bottom of this Cracker Jack box likely will be the guest appearance by the band’s co-founding former frontman, Donnie Vie, on “Strangers in My Head.” The song — signature-style EZ. Rekindling the band’s unique magic, “Strangers” feels like a loving hug from a long-lost friend. A golden highlight, to be sure.
Times change. Bands change. People change. And Enuff Z’Nuff ain’t the same band they were, way back, whenever. But, 30+ years later, their impeccable power pop brand remains unblemished. In sum, Brainwashed Generation is an extremely satisfying set — a solid new entry in an expansive catalog.
Brainwashed Generation Track Listing:
1. The Gospel (0:40)
2. Fatal Distraction (3:51)
3. I Got My Money Where My Mouth Is (4:21)
4. Help I’m in Hell (4:28)
5. It’s All in Vain (5:42)
6. Strangers in My Head (4:23)
7. Drugland Weekend (4:39)
8. Broken Love (5:19)
9. Go… (5:21)
10. Winding Road (4:50)
Run Time: 43:34
Release Date: July 10, 2020
Record Label: Frontiers Music s.r.l.