You gotta hand it to Soul Asylum: they’ve endured enough in their near 30-year stint to cause plenty of other bands to call it quits. Among the list of hardships: inconsistent kudos from the critics; being dropped from not one, but two major labels; dealing with hearing loss; a revolving door of drummers; and the death of bassist Karl Mueller from cancer in 2005. And yet, with the low end now covered by bassist Tommy Stinson (The Replacements, Guns N’ Roses), Soul Asylum is back with a new album, aptly titled Delayed Reaction.
Let’s be clear from the start: this is not a reinvention album. This isn’t Soul Asylum revamping itself as a twenty-teens alt-rock outfit. Rather, Delayed Reaction plays more like a we’re-still-here-after-all-that’s-been-thrown-at-us album. While understandably lacking in energy compared to their early efforts (they have been at this for 30 years, after all), the album still has the elements that Soul Asylum fans have grown to love, from jangly guitars and driving beats (on songs like opening track “Gravity” and “The Streets”) to Dave Pirner’s signature raspy vocals. Sonically, the band takes a few interesting detours along the way, from the sunny-pop sounds of “Into the Light” to “Cruel Intentions,” a slow-jazz number that almost sounds like Pirner stepped up to the mic spontaneously at a jazz bar at 2 a.m. Not enough variation to deter from the overall vibe of the record—just enough to make things interesting.
For all the years of wear, Soul Asylum has pretty much experienced both ends of the spectrum, swinging wildly from being a platinum-selling band to being virtually ignored by the industry. Now backed by indie label 429 Records, Soul Asylum is sort of finding a happy medium. Delayed Reaction is not an effort to regain lost ground; it’s an album for the fans, the ones who have stuck with them through thick and thin. And fans will no doubt be delighted with it.
ALBUM RATING: 3.5 Stars (out of five)