Today is a huge day for Blind Melon fans all over the world. Blind Melon released their new album “For My Friends” today which marks the bands first release in 13 years. Shannon Hoon has been gone for 13 years but there’s not doubt that, wherever he is, he’s looking at this band and smiling ear to ear. This band was given a 2nd chance that many bands don’t get, or want, and they are making the most of this 2nd chance.
At first listen, the first thing that jumps out at me is how great the production is. It is a stellar piece of work and the band did a fantastic job presenting it as not only an album but an amazing listening experience. It kinda makes me think about how back in the day how exciting it was to hear all of the tiny, underlying sounds and whatnot in a song. Somewhere along the line, it seems like bands lost that magic and gave into that raw “muddy” production. I’m sorry but if you make a record, it should be a listening experience as well.
The songs are so strong on this album and they really stand up on their own alongside the rest of the Blind Melon catalog. Instead of trying to replicate the Blind Melon of past, they got a great singer who, while he could pull off the Hoon material with ease, could really offer up a sound of his own and a new, youthful energy that was needed to really keep this band on its toes. Another thing that sticks out is that you really get to see just what a signature sound Blind Melon as a band has. The songs have that groovy, edgy yet at times jammy vibe to them that just makes you smile and want to dance. The lyrical content is pretty different from that of Shannon’s but again, it’s not the same band. It’s a new chapter in an already amazing story.
The album kicks off with the title track “For My Friends” which is an uplifting ode to friends that just seems like an obvious great start to this new chapter. The 2nd track “With The Right Set Of Eyes” is a personal favorite. It’s got such a great, dark vibe to it and Travis really showcases his vocal range on this one and does he on the albums lead off single “Wishing Well”. Hearing this song really makes me think that Travis may have learned a bit from his hero Shannon yet in a good way. This song is a positive ode to sobriety and just making the dark in life a bit more light. One can only hope that Travis will practice what he preaches and stay with us! We lost Shannon and I would hate to loose the one that brought it all back home to us!
The album has such a great flow to it and the songs are so full of life and energy. It’s almost like hearing a bands debut album. This band has been reborn and given a new lease. Songs like “Down On The Pharmacy”, “Tumbling Down” and “Make A Difference” really show us that the band can still craft a tune like no other. The musicianship really shines as well and in some ways, shines like it didn’t in the past. Maybe it’s because they’ve been gone for so long that you really just hear every note, every cymbal crash, every vocal melody and every harmony. My personal album favorite is the 60’s inspired “So High” which just really sweeps me away. Brad Smith’s bass playing on this album really takes this song to a higher level and at times I feel stands out as such a lead instrument on the song. The album is just chock full of great songs but I did find a weak link. The Travis Warren autobiographical song “Cheetum St” just doesn’t seem to do it for me, especially as a closing track. Maybe if this song was somewhere in the middle it would be easier to get into it but the other songs are just so fucking good that to close the album out with this particular was just kind of weak. It may grow on me in time but again, I just find it to be somewhat of a weak link.
All in all, Blind Melon has delivered an album that was well worth waiting 13 years for. Hell, there’s a chance we never would’ve got this album yet alone such a great collection of songs. This is a new chapter in the Blind Melon story and again, this is a chapter worth taking your time on. Just take it in word for word, note for note, and welcome them back! After all, it is “For My Friends”.