Given that Bon Jovi successfully pulled off a comeback in 2000 with Crush, a shiny pop album pitched directly at the mainstream, it's kind of a surprise that they returned two years later with a record as turgid as Bounce. Instead of continuing the colorful blueprint of Crush, they fearlessly backpedal, turning out dull, heavy, serious rock -- the kind of music that sounds "serious" even when it's about trivial things. Of course, much of the record is given over to "serious" topics, as if the band felt that the events of 2001 necessitated a grave response for Bounce, regardless of what they were singing. Such sobriety would not have been a problem if the band had solid material, but they're not only lacking songs, they've inexplicably altered their musical approach. In particular, guitarist Richie Sambora sounds as if he's aping James Hetfield's lumbering downstrokes throughout the album, giving the record an oppressively heavy sound that never lets the music breathe. This casts a pall over the record, but this stumble is not the sole reason Bounce is such a misstep for the band. After all, this is a record where Bon Jovi seems to have consciously decided to avoid everything that gives their music character, melody, and muscle, a move that would have been odd at any point during their career, but is particularly puzzling after they delivered an album that found them growing old gracefully. It's as if they want to undo everything Crush did for them.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine