Why the hell is Lenny Kravitz still around? Over the last decade countless musicians with similar talent and potential live on only by the grace of the bargain bins in the local Virgin Megastore (oh Verve Pipe, we hardly knew ye). So how has our man Lenny managed to survive and even thrive?
The simple answer is that Kravitz, love him or hate him, can write an amazing tune every once in a while. Granted, these are usually buried in albums full of auditory drivel, but the world will always have room for a hit song (ask Chumbawumba, if you can find them today).
But Kravitz’s latest record Lenny seriously lacks such musical gems. From front to back, the album is all filler, no killer: Where is the “Always on the Run,” the “Let Love Rule”? While it is unfair to expect Kravitz to crank out hit after hit, it seems perfectly reasonable to expect a decent tune or two for my (ok, technically the Yale Daily News’) $17.
The album opens with the promising “Battlefield of Love,” a tune that mixes Kravitz’s affinity for all things Sly Stone with a funk-metal riff that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have patented. But from here, the rest of the album deteriorates quicker than Michael Jackson’s nose under a heat lamp.
Lenny’s (the album, well, the guy too) greatest problem is its (and his) attempt to be overly innovative. Kravitz has made great music by merely channeling Jimi Hendrix and Prince, but his forays into new sonic territory are usually laughable. A perfect example is “Believe in Me,” an embarrassing hip-hop tune with the most obnoxious rhythmic loop in recent memory. Leave the rapping to the rappers, Lenny.
Strangely, Kravitz’s attempts to return to his rock ‘n’ roll roots provide Lenny (the album, that is) with some of its more unlistenable moments. Kravitz played almost all of the drum, guitar and bass parts by himself, a fact that becomes painfully obvious as the album drones on. The mediocre melodies are only injured by Kravitz’s annoying simple arrangements.
The greatest offender is “Bank Robber Man,” a chronicle of a recent case of mistaken identity involving Kravitz — he claimed his detainment by police to have been a case of racial profiling. The gritty blues number sounds like it was recorded by a group of 15-year-olds who, having recently learned their instruments, play as loud as they can just to annoy their parents. The album’s power ballads are just as offensive. Songs like “Yesterday Is Gone” and “A Million Miles Away” make similar numbers by Winger and Poison seem downright earnest by comparison.
Lyricism has never been Kravitz’s strong point, but Lenny scales new heights of triteness. In “God Save Us All,” he preaches, “There’s too much poverty, sickness/ There’s pain and strife/ Why aren’t we trying to improve this thing called life/ What are we going to do about it?” That’s all well and good, Lenny; now get off your pile of money and write some better lyrics.
All this does not make Lenny a bad person, but it does make Lenny a bad album. While Kravitz has shown that he can write classics, they are conspicuously absent here. Who knows, he may very well be saving them all up for his next record. But, until then, do yourself a favor and buy his recent greatest hits package if you need to satisfy your Kravitz cravings.