Steve Jones

Mercy

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Steve Jones was light-years from his Sex Pistols days when he took the solo plunge; his snakelike tresses and deep Hollywood tan were only the most obvious visual evidence. Mercy is a markedly slicker offering than his Pistols and Professionals outings. The old single-minded chug-a-chug has been supplanted by tacky mid-'80s poodle metal trademarks like glistening keyboards; lengthy, winding solos; and inane lyrics. Still, Mercy has its share of rewards. Jones proves a surprisingly adept ballad writer on the mournful title track, "Raining in My Heart" and "Pleasure and Pain" (which originally appeared on the Sid & Nancy soundtrack). "Give It Up" and "That's Enough" are also a pair of cheekily enjoyable guilty pleasures. (The latter track also boasts some cringeworthy rhymes, such as "knees" with "deadly disease.") Jones handles guitars and basses in his usual stalwart fashion, though his lead work is far more conventional than before. Problems start adding up on side two: "Drugs Suck" sincerely voices Jones' hard-won sobriety, but its plodding tempo and melodramatic spoken interludes can't get it off the ground. "Pretty Baby" is a crunch ballad that goes on forever, and "Through the Night" is too bland to make much impression. The dirgelike remake of Keith Lester's '60s weeper "Love Letters to Your Heart" makes for a curious, yet appalling conclusion, since Jones' voice lacks the gristle to pull off the mood. Jones was still finding his feet, so it's hard to be too harsh on him -- but he surely could have injected more of his celebrated streetwise character into the proceedings. The dominant mood smacks of "let's play it safe and make a few bucks," but Jones has always fared better when he's allowed to cut loose. There's a pretty good EP struggling to get out, because restraint is the best description for what's happening here.

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