|Rating : 9.0|
A work of genius and commercial suicide. But wait, not that it matters. HEART is a superlative live act, and the career side of it is playing the hits, in hugely inspirational fashion. Even if Fanatic was full of power ballads, it’s 250,000 pancakes, tops. But listen to something like ’59 Crunch’ and you quickly realize Heart in 2012 is about trying to compress decades of rock ‘n’ roll learnedness into the smartest, coolest, most impressive mature classic rock that can be imagined. Fanatic (and to a lesser extent, but still, the band’s last two surprisingly valid studio albums) vaults Heart into my l’il PURPLE, HEEP, MOTÖRHEAD, CHEAP TRICK, and now KISS, club, of heritage bands making their best records NOW. But Fanatic... man, Heart is far and above the most reckless of all of these, pursing pure art above all. Very hard to describe this album, and at the risk of getting it wrong, first thing I’ll say is there’s the idea of a hair band exploded by alternative in 1995, when yer DOKKENs, KISSes, DEF LEPPARDs and even WARRANTs just let it fly, making quite a bit of cool, under-rated and actually ridiculed music. But those bozos... that’s like 17% as far as Heart has fearlessly gone. Fanatic is actually more like ROBERT PLANT on a creative tear, somewhere between the godly Principle Of Moments and the absurdist Shaken ‘N Stirred, with a little Walking Into Clarksdale (the lost ZEPPELIN classic) thrown in for sheer... genius. The heavy songs offer multi-instrumental textures—but more impressively guitar textures—that are high-minded and exotic, the production is crystal clear and perfect, the drum patterns inventive... anything “hard rock” on Fanatic can be enjoyed as production/engineering/mixing marvel, alone, like in a classroom. There are strings, flutes, middle eastern TEA PARTY tones (‘Dear Old America’ alone is a clinic in arranged madness, as is ‘Million Miles’). And the softer ones, the few that there are, like ‘Walkin’ Good’, are contemplative, folky, again full-up with thinking, surprises, non-conventional structure, as if the influence is no longer Zeppelin, but Zeppelin’s most obscure acoustic faves, like say a NICK DRAKE or Incredible String Band (and actually, they also sound like many-tracked BRUCE COCKBURN as well). You wonder if all this purity of artful purpose comes partially from the band’s Seattle clime and state of mind, Fanatic sounding like Dog & Butterfly twisted, rusted, re-welded, holes poked in it, re-bolted, by SOUNDGARDEN (OK, or FISH, or PORCUPINE TREE—especially ‘Million Miles’ and ‘Pennsylvania’). Again, at the risk of sending the wrong message (but making sense with the Seattle side of ‘er), I suppose QUEENSRŸCHE has been attempting this for years, but, leaving any ridicule of that aside, Heart seems built and blessed for this very specific proposal, and that is a complete re-tooling of timeless rock or classic rock, or, I dunno, in fact using the same tools perennially, through-out, including those gorgeous voices, and about 30 more TOM WAITS-weird sounds but pleasant ones, but composing music and lyrics with a massive pile of rock wisdom. Really, the only parallels would be Morse-era Purple and Cheap Trick since the second self-titled. And again, to reiterate, neither of those bands has been this surprising and valiant and fresh about it.