If nothing else, the arrival of a new album from Pat Benatar proves she’s a committed pro. But Go proves a bit more than that. It turns out Benatar, whose bantam squint ruled the early days of MTV more or less unopposed until Madonna came along and wiped her from the planet, still has the fury that launched a thousand headbands. If only she still had her ear for rock & roll.
Benatar seems well positioned for a comeback. You can almost see her dueting with Gwen Stefani – Benatar 2.0 – and making an encore leap into the top 10. But she won’t get there with the tunes from ”Go.” Neil Giraldo – Benatar’s husband, guitarist, and producer – cowrote all 11 tracks, and you get what he was thinking. His wife has always been at her best mining a slender emotional vein: anger at being betrayed. (See ”Love Is a Battlefield,” ”Heartbreaker,” ”You Better Run,” etc.) So Giraldo gives her a bunch of songs about that exact feeling. The most successful of them – ”Go,” ”Brave,” ”Please Don’t Leave Me” – allow Benatar to show off her wonderfully elastic voice, and it’s fun to hear her stretch out on the choruses until she gets that familiar gravelly purr at the bottom of each breath.
The problem is the production. ”Go” is so full of slick power chords and bloated guitar solos that it sounds like Benatar wandered into a Steve Vai session. This is a particularly weird flaw. You might expect Benatar to make a nostalgia album, but you’d think the nostalgia would be for her own era, not the days of Mötley Crüe and Poison. The few tracks that don’t build toward cheesy guitar moments have frantic pace changes, as if to cover for their absence of a melody.