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LoNero - "J.F.L." (CD)

LoNero - "J.F.L." CD cover image

"J.F.L." track listing:

1. Eden (3:32)
2. Little Bastard (3:31)
3. Fat Tat (3:08)
4. Oblivion (4:00)
5. Discard (0:52)
6. Downside (3:50)
7. New Song (3:40)
8. Good Luck (4:28)
9. Giant (3:19)
10. King of Damage (3:09)

Reviewed by on May 13, 2011

"['J.F.L.' is] like McDonald’s at two o’clock in the morning: you never thought you’d get here, but now that you are, it is shockingly satisfying."

Ever been to McDonald’s expecting a juicy cheeseburger on a fluffy bun and gotten a floppy mess? Me too. So first let me take down the fellow at Nightmare Records that wrote the horribly misleading media guide the same way I took down the McDonald’s ad copy writers back in ’93: When you say “guitarcore” I expect all the good stuff - meaty Full Blown Chaos-style riffs and their correspondingly pulverizing breakdowns, cheery hardcore melodies and shout-alongs, blackened and deathened and thrashened bits all mingling happily at the party – with no filler (read: wimpy vocals). Basically everything that ever made any type of ‘core good-to-great. But what you mean by “guitarcore” is a vaguely blues-based rock instrumental album that uses guitars to do pretty much everything.

To quote the guide directly: “Unlike most instrumental rock artists whose songs are a seemingly endless display of solos, LoNero chooses to focus on rhythm, groove, verse, chorus and melody.” In fact band leader and lead guitarist Bill LoNero solos the vast majority of the time, it just (mostly) isn’t widdly-widdly. “Their songs are constructed as if a vocalist is going to sing over them.” I’m not sure where vocals would go with the almost-constant soloing, straightforward song arrangements filling the entire space, and no interruption in the regularly scheduled riffs and rhythms. “No limits, no borders, no nonsense.” Right (deadpanned sarcastically).

But this misconception is my problem (I read the back cover of paperback books too), and now that I’ve disabused you from any similar misconceptions, let’s judge “J.F.L.” on its own merits. It isn’t half bad. Not a classic, but not bad. “J.F.L.” is modern rock guitar music; LoNero doesn’t write killer hooks like Satriani, isn’t unhinged like Vai, isn’t technical like Malmsteen, and isn’t multi-instrumentally talented like MacAlpine. But LoNero does write good driving melodies and rhythms that would play great on July Fourth weekend with the top down.

“Downside” has a cool layered solo at the back, a hook-y lead line in the front and certainly drives faster than the hard rock riffs Sammy Hagar wrote. “Little Bastard” fits neat little leads inside a funky groove, while “New Song” has bassist Mike McKaigg making his first appearance of consequence and the band making out with a nicely done rock ballad. There are other nuggets scattered about as well, but the best trait of “J.F..L” is its consistency - only the interlude “Discard” is a total throwaway (name-of-song joke goes here).

“J.F.L.” is a short album, getting ten songs up and down in 33 minutes, and it certainly doesn’t do any of the “no limits, no borders” nonsense. I’d take similarly genre’d Gary Hoey over this because Hoey pushes farther out on the hard and soft edges, for example, but in general this is a non-offensive and good background-at-a-party album. Kinda like McDonald’s at two o’clock in the morning: you never thought you’d get here, but now that you are, it is shockingly satisfying.

Highs: The combination of hard driving riffs and lithe leads on “Little Bastard” is a well done mixture.

Lows: Interlude “Discard” is very aptly named – a complete throwaway.

Bottom line: Modern rock guitar record isn’t the proclaimed “guitarcore,” but it also isn’t bad.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)