Enuff Z'Nuff

Spitfire Records, 1995

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Have you ever listened to an album, stopped at some point and said to yourself, "They're trying to tell me something?" (Charles Manson is excluded from this conversation.)

It's rare if I ever have that kind of feeling as I listen to something, but that's exactly what I found myself doing when I first listened to Tweaked, the 1995 release from Chicago rockers Enuff Z'Nuff. I had made it halfway though the disc, and was listening to "It's Too Late," when I stopped the disc and said out loud, "These songs are all connected."

I don't know if this was the intention of Chip Z'Nuff and crew, nor do I claim to have any inside knowledge on the story behind this disc. But what I do know without a doubt is that Tweaked is the most ambitious disc that Enuff Z'Nuff had tackled to this point in their career, and it is an incredibly satisfying listen, even if the outcome of the story I'm hearing is left a bit open-ended.

The story that ties this disc together seems to be the decline of a musician into the world of an addict after being spurned by the love of his life. As the tale opens on "Stoned," our hero is pleading for his inamorata to save him from the hell he knows he'll fall into should she leave him: "People all around me seem to / Love to get me on the thing / Oh my darling you could save me / Take me home I'll be your king". Despite the title of this track, this song could have easily been the key that Enuff Z'Nuff needed to re-open the doors to mass popularity; the guitar work has more hooks than a bass fishing competition, and the track is one of the best the band has ever produced. (It still sounds great live, too - something I can vouch for as of December of last year.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Apparently, our hero's pleas fall on deaf ears, as he quickly descends into the rush of the scene on "Bullet From A Gun" - but the fun quickly wears off, and the rocker knows he's in the grip of addiction in "Mr. Jones" - and while he sees the mess he's made of things, he can't see the light at the end of the tunnel to get himself out. The see-saw battle of hope versus hopelessness continues to act out its play in the next two tracks, "My Dear Dream" and "Life Is Strange".

Desparate to free himself from his prison, our hero tries to reach out again to his beloved, in the hope that she'll save him from his self-inflicted hell on "Without Your Love". The hope/hopelessness saga then picks up again on "We're All Alright" (with a slight nod to Cheap Trick) and "It's Too Late".

Our hero seems to hit the bottom in the songs "If I Can't Have You" and "Has Jesus Closed His Eyes," suggesting that his desparation for salvation is reaching the point of being unbearable. The latter is another wonderful track from the band, and ranks up there with being one of their most thought-provoking songs.

Here is where I admit the story becomes fuzzy for me. The final two songs of the album proper, "Style" and "My Heroin," could either be seen as our hero finally recovering from his addictions and looking back at the foolishness of his ways, or it could be seen as the view of an outsider who has watched this whole tragedy unfold and can keep silent no longer. (The addition of the bonus track "How Am I Supposed To Write A Love Song?" seems to support the former; you could view it as our hero reacts from the constant spurning his beloved has shown him. Or, you could say it didn't fit the story, which is why it wasn't originally included.)

I refuse to go out on a limb and say that this is an autobiographical work, since I have too much respect for Z'Nuff (as well as the rest of the band, though my contacts with them have been briefer) to make any kind of speculation without knowing every single fact. And the only fact is: I don't have enough concrete knowledge of the band's history to make a bold claim. But I can say that Tweaked is a powerful anti-drug statement, warning people of what lies ahead behind the euphoria of the first rush - and the picture it paints isn't pretty.

But how is Tweaked musically, you ask? If you try to listen to this as just a collection of songs, it's difficult to get through at first. But if you try and follow the story line (at least the one I heard), the music makes much more sense, and the disc reveals itself to be one of the best that Enuff Z'Nuff has recorded. Pity that more people don't know about this disc; they're missing one of the best concept albums to hit the market - and one that thankfully doesn't hit the listener over the head with the fact that it is a concept disc.

Rating: A-

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Spitfire Records, and is used for informational purposes only.