We haven’t had an epic get-out-your-lighter stadium anthem on the radio this year, but that’s because enough people haven’t heard “Comfort Zone” from the Answer’s Everyday Demons. Hushed guitars in the verses give way to a soaring chorus sung by frontman Cormac Neeson, who just wants a moment with his special someone. Like everything else the Answer do, “Comfort Zone” fondly recalls the broad-chested power of ‘70s arena-rock. This song is a buried gem.
“It felt good,” E of the indie-rock group Eels said in an interview about the making of “Fresh Blood.” “It had the feeling you want to have when you’re making a new song, like ‘Oh, here’s something new.’” He wasn’t kidding: This Hombre Lobo track throbs with desire and is highlighted by a menacing beat and some bloodcurdling howls.
“Know Your Enemy” is cut from the same cloth as many of the tracks off Green Day’s last album, American Idiot, which makes it the perfect bridge between that record and the group’s more recent 21st Century Breakdown. Pounding drums, a devastating opening guitar riff, and Billie Joe Armstrong’s impassioned vocals – it may be a formula, but as executed by Green Day, it’s a shockingly effective formula. “Know Your Enemy” is politically-minded hard rock that sounds really good at any volume. However, louder works better.
Marilyn Manson is at his best when he’s shrewdly skewering hypocrisy, which brings us to his fairly brilliant “We’re From America” off The High End of Low. Speaking in the voice of an ignorant American, Manson explains that the U.S. can do whatever it wants because, let’s face it, we’re awesome. “We’re From America” is high-octane alt-metal, but its satiric lyrics cut even deeper that the music does.
Alice in Chains picked up where they left off 15 years ago with this riveting single. “Check My Brain” is a druggy look at life in Los Angeles, and the song’s wall of grunge guitars creates a sense of despair and decadence that’s as thick as the city’s smog. Former frontman Layne Staley may be dead, but Alice in Chains returned in style in 2009. We didn’t realize just how much we’d missed them.
Kings of Leon’s Only by the Night dropped in 2008, but “Use Somebody” has made its impact felt this year. A nearly flawless example of mainstream rock writing that nonetheless sounds deeply personal and musically exciting, “Use Somebody” talks about lovers separated by distance, superbly articulating the drag of being a band toiling on the road away from those you care about: “Off in the night/While you live it up I’m off to sleep/Waging wars to shake the poet and the beat.” You can hear the longing in every guitar strum.