Los Lonely Boys are back again with their form of self-branded ‘Texican’ rock ’n’ roll, but was anyone aware of their absence in the first place? All this time the band quietly churned out several albums of mid-tempo bluesy pop with adult contemporary leanings, until the band’s 18-year career came very close to catastrophe in 2013 after guitarist and vocalist Henry Garza took a fall off the stage at a Los Angeles performance in February. Following Henry’s surprisingly quick recovery the boys present us with their fifth studio album, Revelation. Drummer Ringo (I am not making this up) explained the title in a press release as a sort of mission statement: “We want to make music that reveals something to people about their lives and their world.”
What it doesn’t reveal is any sort of artistic awakening. Los Lonely Boys made their name off 2004’s breezy hit single “Heaven,” a tightly-crafted pop rock song anchored by the brothers’ capable harmonies and Henry’s tasteful guitar fills. The same tricks are featured on Revelation without so much as a trace of melodic ingenuity. Only the leadoff single “Blame it on Love” comes close, as the brothers twist a delightful conjunto groove through all sorts of nifty little chord changes and dynamic shifts.
Perhaps the secret behind the album’s generally bland nature is its use of external co-writers, a first for the band (and a peculiar one considering they wrote “Heaven” without any help). Revelation’s liner notes credit a diverse group of songsmiths ranging from Ozomatli guitarist Raúl Pacheco to Top 40 guys like Matthew Gerrard and David Quiñones, but the only sign of diversity here comes from a surprising use of harpsichord on the Beatles-aping “There’s Only Tomorrow”. It’d be much more enjoyable if it weren’t so slickly produced. Everything on this record is just too clean for a band with roots in the gutsy blues sound Texas is known for, and Henry — once considered a promising guitar hero — rarely gets a chance to tear loose. His restraint is occasionally appreciated, even necessary, yet it ultimately tires over the course of twelve tracks.
Just as things finally start to ramp up on “Can’t Slow Down” the song reveals itself to be a pastiche of riffs lifted wholesale from Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” Elsewhere, the ham-handed hybrid of Tejano sounds and Train-esque songwriting bring to mind the soundtrack for a suburban taco night held by the Real Housewives of New Jersey. The trouble with albums like Revelation, lacking in creativity and fresh ideas, is that they draw greater attention to the lyrical subject matter. Los Lonely Boys don’t win any awards in this category, either. Just scan over the track list for a treasure trove of clichés: “Give a Little More,” “See the Light,” “Don’t Walk Away,” “Can’t Slow Down,” “Rule the World”…it’s all been done a thousand times before and with far more fire.
It hurts me to give this album a low score. These boys know how to play their instruments, they sing with skill, they’ve worked hard to maintain a career in music and they seem like genuinely down-to-earth, passionate musicians. All these truths are much more than we expect from about 90% of mainstream-friendly artists. But Los Lonely Boys’ passion is too hard to eke out of Revelation, replaced by the most mundane and predictable aspects of their musical identity. If there’s anything I can’t stand, it’s hearing talented musicians waste their skills on half-baked songs.