After tackling old-school R&B, country-roots, and Memphis soul on his previous three releases, Australian rock veteran Jimmy Barnes returns to more familiar territory on his 16th studio release, Rage and Ruin. Produced by longtime collaborator Don Gehman, the back-to-basics affair sees the gravelly-voiced rocker, the most successful home-grown recording artist in his country's history, battle his demons on 12 tracks inspired by a book of notes he wrote while struggling with drug and alcohol addiction -- hence the biblical titles like the driving country-rock of "This Ain't the Day That I Die," the Eagles-influenced AOR of "I've Seen It All (Rage and Ruin)," and the self-described "raw rockin' stomper" "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead." While his heart-pouring lyrics may have provided a much-needed catharsis in his road to recovery, their repetitive soul-searching nature does begin to wear a bit thin by the time the Scorpions-esque power ballad "Time Can Change" draws to a close. Fortunately, the music is a little lighter in tone, with convincing attempts at John Mellencamp-esque Americana ("Letter from a Dead Heart"), dirty gospel-blues ("Adam Was Just a Man"), and old-fashioned barroom rock ("Can't Do It Again") counteracting the rather depressing subject matter, while closing track "Largs Pier Hotel" is a wistful Celtic folk-tinged tribute to the rundown Adelaide establishment he regularly played at with Cold Chisel back in the '70s. Nothing much has changed 15 years on from his last pure rock & roll effort, 1995's Psyclone. Barnes' whiskey-soaked Angus Young-esque tones have undoubtedly maintained their growl, any advances in production appear to have completely passed him by, and his sound still seems firmly stuck in the '80s, but you have to admire both his fighting spirit and refusal to compromise. It isn't exactly pretty, but for fans of vintage Australian pub rock, Rage and Ruin ticks all the boxes.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien