Playlist: April 2015

SCOTT WEILAND AND THE WILDABOUTS, “Way She Moves”/”Hotel Rio” (2015)

I pre-ordered this album from Base so I got it a few days early. I gave it a listen, enjoyed it and put it aside for a second when I had the time. The following Monday, the UK release date, guitarist Jeremy Brown suddenly passed away. Having never seen, met or known the man I’d feel weird writing a long-winded tribute to him but, based on this record alone, we lost a blossoming talent way too young. Not only was Brown’s work on Blaster varied and impressive with a killer tone, but on evidence of this record alone he seemed to re-energise Weiland. As for a track pick, I couldn’t decide between the retro-glam styling of “Way She Moves” or the modern indie lushness of “Hotel Rio”, so it’s nice that earMusic put a bit of both in one video.

HALESTORM, “Amen” (2015)

I already reviewed the first song from this album, “Apocalyptic”, back in January and we’ve since had the new album, Into the Wild Life, to digest. The “I Love Rock and Roll”-stomp of the music seems almost cynically targeted towards arena crowds, while the message and sentiment are worryingly similar to that of the abhorrent “Bro-Country” schlock that’s plagued country music for the past two or three years. (There’s also guitarist Joe Hottinger’s highly-worrying sentiment that the song is about the “religion of the self” and “being your own God” to consider, or conveniently ignore and hope he was just kidding). Still, it works.

As for the new album, it’s a weird beast. There are moments like “Apocalyptic”, “I Like It Heavy” and “Amen” that kinda sound like the drier, crunchier Halestorm I hoped the whole record would present, but it also has a lot of slick electronic polish and an almost overbearing amount of ballads, which I’m pretty sure Halestorm have enough of by now. Edgier moments like “Mayhem” and “Sick Individual” give it teeth, though, and present a hopeful future where this band can break away from their pop leanings and put out something truly, genuinely wild.

RATT, “Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds” (1988)

Ratt’s fourth album, Reach for the Sky, doesn’t get a good rep much of the time, even though it went double platinum (back when one of a band’s weaker albums could still push two million copies), but there’s a lot of good stuff on there, including my personal favourite Ratt tune “Way Cool Jr.” There’s something to “Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds”,  though, that I dig as well, with its shoulder-shuffling riff (is that a thing? It is now), infectious chorus and cocksure Sunset Strip swagger that I, as a slightly-reluctant member of Generation Y, personally find kinda endearing. Oh, sure, Eighties glam-metal had plenty going against it by the end, but at least it was fun. Thanks a bunch, grunge.

JETTBLACK, “Slaves” (2015)

I first ponied up for Jettblack’s PledgeMusic campaign back in November 2013, so I’ve been waiting quite some time for their new album, Disguises, to arrive. I can say, as well, that it was worth the wait. The album manages to push the band’s sound from their Eighties influences into drier, darker and heavier territory with slight alternative elements while maintaining the strong songwriting, vicious guitar playing and bombastic hard rock hooks that make being a fan of this band so much fun. When I went to see Jettblack play in Chester in February they performed a number of these new songs live, including the opening track on this album, “Slaves”. This song immediately stood out for me with its pummelling riff and soaring chorus. A very nice step forward for an underappreciated band.

CROBOT, “Full Moon Howl” (2015)

I put Crobot’s debut album Something Supernatural at #6 in my Top Albums of 2014 list and I’ve been wondering ever since whether I should have put it higher. Well, they’ve since re-released it as a digital-only “Full Moon Edition” with four bonus songs, three of them studio tracks and the other one a live recording. They’re all fantastic (the studio songs, that is – I haven’t listened to the live one yet), and while my favourite is probably “Back at the Blackwoods” this is great as well for all the same reasons the album was such a pleasant surprise. These guys really are the real deal, and without a doubt one of my favourite rock bands in recent memory. If you care about rock music in the 21st century you’ll give them all the support you can.

AEROSMITH, “Round and Round” (1975)

Toys in the Attic turned forty years old on April 8th, which I celebrated by giving it another listen. This was the album that essentially crystallised that classic Aerosmith sound, and while Rocks remains the band’s master-stroke it was still only fine-tuning the template that Toys put in place. The title track, “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way” are the takeaway classics from this album (even if it’s actually the Run-D.M.C. version of the latter that most people know these days) but they click with a strong set of deep cuts, including “Uncle Salty”, “No More No More” and this nasty little number, “Round and Round”, bolstered by a sinister grinding riff and Tyler’s distorted howling vocals acting as something of a precursor to the apocalyptic “Nobody’s Fault” from Rocks, not to mention one last blast of heaviosity before the album leads into its overly-sappy closer, “You See Me Crying.” An underrated gem.

EUROPE, “Seven Doors Hotel” (1983)

Before Europe went poodle-pop keyboard rock with The Final Countdown and its infamous title track, they were a pretty heavy rock band (which they have since also reverted to being). This is one of the more striking songs from their earlier career, a charging song with some towering vocals from Joey Tempest and interesting choral backing, giving it a slight prog inclination to boot. The studio version (which you can hear here) is from 1983, but this live version from 2004 is pretty killer as well.

TOSELAND, “Hearts and Bones” (2015)

I put Toseland’s debut album at #8 in my Favourite Albums of 2014 list, a decision I stand by, and now they’ve put out an EP, Hearts and Bones, which follows on smoothly from Renegade‘s crunchy, propulsive hard rock. The song pushes along at a relentless pace with some simple but effective guitar work while Toseland’s distinctive vocals ride the riffage with panache. It’s only two quid on Amazon, too, and for the price of a cup of coffee you can hardly go wrong here.

EAGLES OF DEATH METAL, “Wannabe in L.A.” (2008)

The Jesse Hughes/Josh Homme project recently mentioned via their website that there was a new album on the way, which provoked me into digging out my copies of their last couple of records. They’ve both improved on later listen (I’ve yet to give their first album Peace Love Death Metal a second spin), particularly the glossy, trashy scuzz of Heart On. If anything this lead single is a bit of a departure from that record’s sound with its simple, laid back structure, sound, flow and melody. If you forgot how catchy this song was, then I apologise, but this is basically all you’ll be humming for the next week.

BOOTS ELECTRIC, “Complexity” (2011)

Sorry, I lied – this is is all you’ll be humming all week. See, in the downtime between the last EODM album and this upcoming one, Jesse Hughes put out a solo album under his nom de plume, Boots Electric. It doesn’t sound a great deal like the Eagles of Death Metal but it definitely has the same sense of goofy fun. Those moves, those women, that moustache… it’s a party, all right.

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