Reviews roundup – Piston vs. Lonesome Chris Todd vs. Lucero vs. Popstar Killers v. Red Dead Roadkill
Bit of an odd cove, this one, considering it’s (checks calendar) 2019. See, to my old ears it’s straight out of the late eighties when glam metal and blues rock were having a bit of a major love in. So there are plenty of hard rocking riffs and sleaze influenced songs. But then they’ll go and throw in a song that the Rock City Angels or Junkyard would have claimed as their own back in the day.
Which means I like it because those were my glory days. The opening ‘Dynamite’ is actually a bit of a misnomer. It’s a bit too wham bam thank you ma’am for good measure but once ‘Rainmaker’ kicks in with hefty amounts of “Hey” and “Woah-ohs” it’s clear that there is a lot of splendid music in these grooves. Incidentally, the addition of “Hey” and “Woah-oh” to any song automatically makes it 10% better so the less good bands out there should take note.
Piston like to keep things simple so the riffs aren’t overly complicated but they’re powerful and catchy which is how it should be in the world of rawk’n’roll. Vocalist Rob Angelico has got a good voice and on the rare occasion things slow down he gets a chance to shine.. See ‘Carry Us Home’ for proof. But it’s when they strap you down for a rocket ride that it all works best. Apart from ‘Rainmaker’ the metal edged ‘Beyond Repair’ and the southern rock of ‘Leave If You Dare’ are real standouts. Although there’s nae actual shite here. It’s a proper ten track album which is expertly performed and produced with no room for filler. Although you do get a couple of remixes tacked onto the end.
An absolute gem, fans of the rawk really need to hear this.
LONESOME CHRIS TODD
Market Square Music
Turns out that ‘Lonesome’ Chris Todd has fronted The Hardchargers, one of Ireland’s premier electric blues trios, for the past 10 years. Nah, me neither.
But now he’s put out a solo EP with two of his own songs along with covers from the world of Lightnin’ Hopkins and Bukka White. And it’s really good.
The title track has a dark, string edged feel to it although Mr Todd says that it’s about a personal rebirth. Regardless, you could use it an episode of Peaky Blinders, nae bother. Meanwhile, ‘Red Lion Yard’ is more of a traditional acoustic blues tune which documents a brief period of homelessness with a surprisingly jaunty tune.
For the covers he’s headed back to the thirties and forties with takes on Bukka White’s ‘Shake ‘Em On Down’ and Lightnin’ Hopkins’ ‘Lonesome Dog Blues’. It says a lot for his own songs that they’re not overawed by the presence of some blues classics and unlike the studio songs these were recorded as live takes in his home in Ballyclare. He’s got a good voice and plays a mean acoustic guitar all of which serves to make this a real treat. Fans of acoustic blues should be checking it out immediately.
Among The Ghosts
I’m easily confused at what gets labelled as Americana and alt-country these days. It basically seems to involve anything that’s sort of half way between Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. You know, stuff that isn’t any kind of country.
This is another one from a band who’ve been on the go for twenty years with eight previous albums and who have never impinged on my consciousness till now. I would imagine because of my antipathy to all things Neil and Brucie. Lucero would seem to be the baby of Ben Nichols who writes all the songs and he’s actually got a very listenable voice. Obs I’ve never heard them before but this is definitely more on the Brucie baby end of the spectrum than anything else.
I must admit I find the harder edged songs fairly indigestible but when they slow things down as they do on ‘Always Been You’ I do get a brief taster of the talent that resides in the band. Another highlight is ‘To My Dearest Wife’ which includes letters written by soldiers to their loved ones during the American Civil War, which certainly appealed to the history buff in me.
Overall, Lucero seem to be one of those American heartland bands who appeal to people who studied soft degrees at college back in the nineties and I have no doubt that they will take this one to their hearts as well.
Driven By Fire
Hmm. They trail themselves as pop punk and garage rock but it actually sounds like nineties indie to me. Maybe in Germany.
They’re certainly extremely melodic and would have sat happily on the outer edges of the Britpop scene back in the day. Now that definitely makes it Not My Sort of Thing but within the parameters of where they exist they’re very good at what they do. Strong vocals, hook filled melodies, choruses you can join in with. It’s all there.
Oddly, they’ve been on the go since 2006, but despite two previous albums this is their first official release. I say oddly because they really do have a commercial sound. Although I suppose the kids nowadays aren’t really into the guitar pop sort of thing. Which would be a shame for the Popstar Killers because on songs like ‘Walking On Clouds Again’ and ‘Never Forget You’ they give every indication of having the ability to turn into the people they want to murder. A couple of the songs do head off into unlistenable Foo Fighters rockbore territory but they’re very much in the minority.
RED DEAD ROADKILL
Sweet Songs of Anguish
Look at that cover. What do you think you’re going to get? Some kind of electro-goth ala Collide? Some full on angstful retro-emo? Well, no. It’s actually pretty straight down the middle modern hard rock.
Formed from the ashes of a band called Road Kill by guitarist and songwriter Bob Lee this is the Sort Of Thing that the modern rock world should be full of. There’s nothing retro about what they’re doing here. It’s very much a sound of today. Well, I say that. I’m basing that entirely on having leafed through a copy of Rock Sound in Asda a couple of weeks ago.
Lead vocalist Radness is a bit of a secret weapon as she seems to hold the lesser tracks together, fooling you into thinking they’re better than they are. But there’s not many of them and on tunes like the hit single in waiting ‘Somewhere, Mr. Fate’ and the almost metal ‘Unleash The Beast’ they’ve come up with a sound that really should be better known.
The whole band put on a strong performance although I’d ditch the occasional male vocal lines. The image is also slightly at odds with their sound but do yourself a favour and check them out.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton