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Album Review

Bon Jovi, 'The Circle'

November 23, 2009

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Rock
Bon Jovi The Circle
Island
ESSENTIAL “We Weren’t Born to Follow’’

The circle of which Bon Jovi speaks via the title of its 11th album is the return to the big rock sound that fueled this band’s ride out of New Jersey back in the 1980s heyday of pop-metal. Now the wild-youth anthems are swapped out for grown-up themes; these songs are consumed with family and community and more prone to pine for long-term love than for the one-night stands. Yet such maturity has not found its way into the music. Slick production and beer-ad bombast grease these 12 tracks. Singer Jon Bon Jovi has yet to meet a cliche he can’t work into a song. (After all this time, “thorn in my side’’ is the best you got?) Guitar sidekick Richie Sambora whips up abbreviated guitar furies meant to punctuate the singer’s impassioned pleas and emotive tales just in case you weren’t sure when to pump that fist in the air. “Live Before You Die’’ and “Love’s the Only Rule’’ typify how Bon Jovi traffics in shallow sentiments. Even the topical recession rocker “Work for the Working Man’’ is simply a string of bumper-sticker slogans. But with Bon Jovi, style is enough for success. (Out now)

SCOTT McLENNAN