Halfway through the new Bon Jovi album, Keep the Faith, my brother-in-law Ed turned to me. ''It's like this people change, man,'' he said, pulling his long brown hair back into a ponytail. ''All the girls who were into him are all grown up now. I saw this girl I know, and she said, 'Are you still into Bon Jovi?''' He shook his head disgustedly. ''Now it's all alternative rock and that stuff.''
Ed, who is 27, is not a rock critic; in fact, he's a doorman. He is part of the generation of '80s kids who grew up with the ''Bon man,'' as he fondly calls him. While rock critics were dismissing Bon Jovi as MTV pinup boys though ones who captured a certain believe-in-rock-and-yourself mood in hits like ''Livin' on a Prayer'' Ed lived that life. ''I remember gettin' drunk at spring break and checkin' out the girls,'' he recalled fondly, ''and I couldn't go without hearing 'Lay Your Hands on Me.' That stuff was rockin'.'' Ed even grew his hair in a shoulder-length Jon Bon Jovi mane, which he has kept even though Jon himself recently trimmed his locks.
So it seemed only appropriate for Ed to check out Keep the Faith, the band's first album in four years. Stopping by after work, he settled into the sofa as the album kicked off with ''I Believe,'' a wind-swept, crank-it-up anthem of the Bon Jovi sort. ''I like the guitar,'' Ed said, ''but I dunno the music's kinda weak. It's not crisp. Jon's trying too hard to be raspy. But he's not Axl Rose he's the Bon man.''
Ed perked up for the album's first single, ''Keep the Faith,'' and another rocker, ''In These Arms.'' ''I could really get into this,'' he said, sitting up. ''It gets you movin'. It's like you're checking out some chick across the room and you're getting psyched to go up to her.''
But soon his enthusiasm began to wane. ''This is nice,'' he practically yawned during ''Bed of Roses,'' a power ballad. ''It sounds like he just broke up with a chick or something. It makes me feel like getting a bottle of wine and just sittin' here.'' The psychedelic-metal rocker ''If I Was Your Mother'' didn't impress him either. ''There's always one song at a concert where you say, 'This is where I take a leak and check out the babes.' This is one of those songs.'' And he didn't know what to make of ''Dry County,'' a nine-minute-plus epic about oil workers. ''If Young Guns comes out with a third movie, he's got the song, right?'' Ed cracked.
Ed sat up with the fast-and-loose ''Woman in Love.'' ''This is good,'' he said with a smile. ''It's like, 'Yeah, I'm gonna get this chick tonight!' It's the old Bon man sound.'' But then he sagged. ''That was pretty horrible,'' he groaned after the thumper ''Blame It on the Love of Rock & Roll.'' ''He should blame it on whoever wrote it.''
As the album ended, Ed got up to go to a metal club. ''I hate to rip the guy,'' he frowned. ''I got laid to his music, so I owe him one. But somethin's missing. It doesn't have the same intensity like on the first three albums. I'll still go see 'em in concert because they'll do the old stuff and it'll be psyched. But maybe Jon had his day. I wish I could give him an A, but I'd say it's a D.''