Country music seems to be the flavour of the month at the moment with every artist and their dog, from pop stalwart Cyndi Lauper to rock legend Steven Tyler, going country. 80’s power pop pinup boy Rick Springfield hasn’t fully committed to a country twang, by there are more than a few country elements, from banjo to fiddle – yes, it’s fiddle not violin – to pedal steel, on Rocket Science, Springfield’s 18th studio album. Springfield’s playing and singing are as strong as ever, belying his 66 years, and Rocket Science demonstrates that he is a capable songwriter, just not a mature one.
Lyrically, Rocket Science is an album that doesn’t break new ground or offer anything profound, and musically very little of great interest happens. This is not to say that anything horrible is happening, far from it, it would be hard to find fault with how any of the songs are constructed, it’s all just a little too paint-by-numbers. Playing nearly 100 concerts a year, Springfield clearly loves performing, and perhaps this is his Achilles heel: an inability to not do it himself. It is hard not to feel that if Springfield lent his song-writing prowess to another, younger, performer – someone who would roughen the edges and push things in an unexpected direction – that the songs presented here would be more compelling.
Miss Mayhem is easily the standout song on Rocket Science, opening with dog barks, and wonderfully juxtaposing a very country main riff with a power-pop/pop-rock chorus. Thankfully Miss Mayhem is a single which, while a little misleading as to the overall tone of the album, means it will deservedly reach a larger audience. With 2012’s Songs for the End of the World Springfield hinted at a heavier, darker, rock sensibility, and this is the Springfield we want to hear more from. Blending the country flavouring explored here with solid rock song-writing would have delivered an exciting record. As it is, Miss Mayhem and We Connect provide the only frissons of excitement.
No doubt existing Springfield fans will be well serviced by songs like Light This Party Up, The Best Damn Thing, and Earth To Angel, but an opportunity has been missed with Rocket Science to truly showcase Springfield’s song-writing and musicianship and create an album that would belong in the canon.