Perhaps aware that in 1999 they are in danger of being consigned to the status of nostalgia act, the Scorpions pull out all the stops on Eye II Eye, trying really, really hard to keep up with late '90s mainstream musical trends. That's apparent right from the opening track, "Mysterious," which kicks off with a funked-up drum machine track, uses distorted guitars for rhythmic accents rather than pounding riffs, and leads into a bright chorus melody that feels more like teen-pop than arena-metal; it's an odd mixture of late '90s Def Leppard, early '90s U2, and Chumbawamba. With the exception of the closing piano ballad "A Moment in a Million Years," those electronic drums are present throughout the record (or at least alternate with the real thing on some tracks), which is odd considering that the Scorpions are a notoriously unfunky band (as demonstrated by the chanted faux-rap on "Du Bist So Schmutzig"). Producer Peter Wolf (not the J. Geils frontman) co-writes a number of tracks on the record, and although his sure pop sense actually helps redeem some of the material, his production tries so hard to be contemporary that it often descends into the sublimely ridiculous. "Obsession," for example, seems like a typical Scorpions power ballad until the lightly swinging electronic drum track suddenly replaces the live drums and transforms the song into something resembling a pop/R&B come-on; another ballad, "What U Give U Get Back," blends a dramatic, typical Scorpions guitar solo with some odd electronic percussion noises and a backing choir that features pop-soulsters Siedah Garrett and James Ingram. There are quite a few ballads and midtempo pieces here, which may be a conscious decision, but ends up detracting from the energy level the longer the record plays; songs that might have been all-out rockers on other Scorps albums also seem somewhat muted, as though the band was intentionally avoiding aggression, which has the effect of making the sleaze-metal lyrics of "Freshly Squeezed" sound awkward and forced. Even with songs like "Priscilla," an ode to squashing a cockroach, there are often hints that the Scorpions could have made this a decent straight-ahead, hard rock-tinged pop/rock record, for there's no doubt they wanted to move in that direction; however, the self-conscious attempts to stay hip wind up making the band seem hopelessly out of touch.
Eye II Eye Review
by Steve Huey