Old Habits Die Hard
In the late ’80s/early ’90s, the initial backlash to the glam and hairspray of the L.A. rock scene brought about a small subgenre of stripped down bluesy hard rock. The most successful of these bands was probably The Black Crowes. Other groups who embraced this aesthetic included Ugly Kid Joe and Jackyl – simple, straight ahead rock ‘n roll. Junkyard could easily be included with this group. Their self-titled debut album gained some attention, and their follow up in 1991, Sixes, Sevens, and Nines gained some traction with more exposure on MTV and led to a healthy touring schedule. The band went on a songwriting frenzy and headed back to the studio to record another album and capitalize on their momentum.
And then everything changed. After the explosion of those bands from Seattle, Geffen Records decided to shelve the newly recorded album and Old Habits Die Hard stayed on the shelf. Until now. After the re-release of the first two albums, and a brand new studio album in 2017, there was renewed interest in Junkyard. And now, we can take a trip back to 1992. As expected, the new/old album is filled with no frills rock songs. Feel free to skip the bombastic introduction track, which might have worked for a live album but just seems ridiculous here. But with that out of the way, “Pushed You Too Far” gets the show going with a hard driving groove. Brian Baker’s guitar riffs and solos shine throughout the album. “Fall To Pieces” drives forward powered by the tight rhythm section of Pat Muzingo (drums) and Todd Muscat (bass).
Remembering when this was recorded, the requisite power ballad is here. “Tried and True” is a bland but inoffensive entry into the genre, that does serve to showcase David Roach’s vocals. Their attempt at a slower blues number, “My Blue Sin,” falls a little flat and generic. Other songs are enjoyable, but don’t really stand out. In the days of cassettes, when you couldn’t skip tracks (or just download the ones you wanted), some of these might grow on you and later become favorites.
However, the highlights really do shine. Seeing how the wind was blowing, the second song on the album might have been their attempt for a 1992 single. The tuning, tone, and tempo of “Out Cold” could easily have placed this track on contemporary efforts from Alice in Chains or Soundgarden. Their second ballad is about heartbreak, but not from a romantic relationship. “Hangin’ Around” highlights the struggle of being an artist and trying to follow your dreams: “I was gonna be famous, gonna shake this town. Now I’m washing windows for spare change, sleeping on the ground.” Then there’s “Holdin’ On,” the opposite of that and my instant favorite track on the album. It’s an up tempo, feel good song about keeping positive when things aren’t going your way. I’m not saying that I have been singing “Holdin’ On” in the shower for the past week. But I’m not saying that I haven’t.
If you give Old Habits Die Hard a chance (and if you like rock ‘n roll, you should), you will probably listen to it over earbuds. It sounds fine that way. But this is an album that begs to be blasted over speakers. Do yourself a favor and find that friend who spent too much money on their car stereo, cue this blast from the past up, and roll down the windows while you take a cruise around town.