W.A.S.P., “Babylon’s Burning” (2009)
W.A.S.P. have been talking about their new album, Golgotha, for a while now and it looks like it might finally see the light of day this summer. I’ve really been digging W.A.S.P. recently and, although my focus has been largely confined to those first five albums, I’ve heard good things about their last LP, 2009’s Babylon. For some confounded reason the album is now out-of-print, despite only being six years old, but the video to its lead single is still available on YouTube. Every time I hear it I’m reminded that W.A.S.P. never really deviated too far from their OTT metal sound, which for many I presume is a sticking point. As someone who hugely enjoys that sound, though, I’m fine with this. The band are tight, Blackie’s sounding great… it’s all good.
MILLION DOLLAR RELOAD, “Roll the Dice” (2015)
Million Dollar Reload holed themselves up in Rockfield Studios (in Wales, boyo!) for what we were originally told was an EP, but given that the band hasn’t released a new studio record in three years I’m hoping they might have changed their minds in the meantime and put together enough material for a full LP. The L.A. Guns-style hard rock template is still in place but the addition of piano to the band’s sound really expands the music nicely as well as adding to the sense of drive, making for a rollicking little number that promises good things for the upcoming release, whatever it turns out to be. Plus if you like the song yourself you can download it for free from their website here.
FAITH NO MORE, “Superhero” (2015)
So that new Faith No More album finally came out. As I expected in my post about the announcement from last year it largely expands on the moodier sounds of their last record, 1997’s Album of the Year, but to call it a direct progression wouldn’t be doing it justice at all. There’s some great stuff on here, particularly “Separation Anxiety”, “Cone of Shame”, “Matador” and this song, “Superhero”, which stands as one of the punchier cuts on an album of dark and sombre textures. It fits in well here but it could have also slotted in nicely on their 1992 masterstroke Angel Dust, which is always a good sign.
QUEENSRŸCHE, “Jet City Woman” (1990)
I’ve made up my mind: this is going to be the first song at my wedding. Sorry, future bride. You can have the rest of the playlist to put in whatever disco hits from yesteryear you want the in-laws to shift about to on the social club dancefloor but we’re kicking off proceedings with this. If gran wants KC and the Sunshine Band then gran can wait.
HALESTORM, “I Like It Heavy” (2015)
The first in a quartet of tracks in this playlist where my prevailing sentiment has been “hm.” I talked about Halestorm’s new album in last month’s playlist but its vaguely pop-rock direction is still bugging me, particularly this closing song. It has enough of the trademarks of bro-country, like a cod-Southern stomp and inane lyrics that namedrop “big bass drums” and veteran artists for no good reason, to raise red flags in my head. In fact I half-expect Lzzy Hale to start dropping rhymes about sun tans, dirt roads, tail gating and Daisy Dukes any minute. It could also do without that weird bit at the end where Hale waffles on about being taken to church (but it’s a church of rawk, or something). It’s still one of the best songs on the album and I still enjoy it immensely – how could anyone not? It’s catchy as sin – but I’m no less bugged.
ART OF ANARCHY, “Small Batch Whiskey” (2015)
I’m torn on this – not just the song but Art of Anarchy in general. It’s a “supergroup” similar to last year’s White Appice Mendoza Iggy project, though instead of one famously self-destructive singer and one guy from Guns N’ Roses backed by a bunch of nameless hands, that project featured as its talents a trio of highly competent veteran session musicians as well as a young rising talent. So naturally that project sank without a trace while this one rides its little wave of controversy all the way to… well, wherever it’s going.
In fairness I don’t mind this song. It’s got a decent grind to it and Bumblefoot puts in some good guitar work but Scott Weiland just sounds bored, which does tie in with his out-and-out rejection of this band. I do like that album artwork, though. Couldn’t tell you why, just do. In fact I might pick the album up sometime just for that.
THE STRYPES, “Eighty-Four” (2015)
The Strypes released another EP this month, Flat Out, and the two new studio songs it features (alongside a cover of M5’s “Kick Out the Jams”) are softer, smoother and more melodic than their previous material, which kinda worries me. I like The Strypes for their rowdy, throwback rhythm and blues sound, not whatever this is trying to be. We have enough faceless indie bands aping The Replacements right now. I do like the funky bass work, even if it is a little derivative of Arctic Monkeys’ earlier work, and the chorus is certainly infectious, so overall I’d give it a thumbs up. They’ve also got a new album, Little Victories, coming out in July and I anticipate there’ll be some rawer material on there. I still worry, though – if they’re not careful they run the risk of turning into the Vaccines, and nobody wants that.
ZAC BROWN BAND, “Heavy is the Head” (feat. Chris Cornell) (2015)
I don’t know what to make of this. I’m not a country guy so I’ve never really given the Zac Brown Band too much attention, but it seems the guy’s trying to appeal to people like me with his/their new album, Jekyll + Hyde, which from what I gather is a strange mixture of country, alt-rock and dancier tunes. This is the big scratchy alt-rock number of the album – they even finagled the mighty Chris Cornell into doing some vocal work – and honestly it isn’t too bad. The initial triumvirate of distorted bass, climbing riff and Cornell’s vocal hook is admittedly sick (I also really appreciate the Soundgarden-esque shifting time signature), while Brown has a decent stab at playing the rocker, but ultimately something about it doesn’t quite click for me. And yet I couldn’t count how many times I’ve listened to it this month. Weird, that. It’s almost as if you can criticise a piece of art while still earnestly enjoying it. Anybody mind telling the rest of the internet about this breakthrough?
WOLFMOTHER, “Colossal” (2006)
I find it strange that Wolfmother were criticised for openly displaying their heavy Sabbath/Zeppelin influences back when they first hit the scene, even though nowadays everybody in rock music is doing that and nobody cares. I mean, how did it turn out that a band with such a “retro” sound made the mistake of being too ahead of their time?
Anyway, Wolfmother have been writing their fourth album recently with plans to put it out on Universal later this year after the independently-released New Crown hit Bandcamp and iTunes back in 2014. I’m not sure how much good that’ll do them – after all I was one of the three people who bought Stockdale’s 2013 solo album Keep Moving, which was also a Universal release – but if it means they can start rebuilding a wider audience then I’m all for it. Let’s just hope they can write more songs like this instead of the raw stoner jams that characterised New Crown. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed those jams, but they still can’t beat the craft, the fullness and the epic scale of that first album.
STEREOPHONICS, “C’est La Vie” (2015)
The ‘Phonics recently announced that their latest album, Keep the Village Alive, will be released this September. It’s their ninth studio record and first since 2013’s Graffiti on the Train, hopefully returning them to their classic biennial release schedule, as well as their second album whose title begins with “keep” after 2009’s Keep Calm and Carry On. This is the lead single and it’s probably the loosest, most fun thing they’ve put to plastic in quite some time.
NOTE: The song starts about a minute into the video, so just skip past that douchey Welsh bloke and enjoy.
ROBIN ZANDER, “Say You Will” (2011)
I finally got around to “locating” Robin Zander’s mysterious second solo album Countryside Blvd., an album that was out for a whopping two days in April 2011 before it was pulled from sale. Why? Nobody knows. Well, maybe Zander and his management do. It has more of a country sound than his previous solo record, released nearly twenty years earlier, and this is one of the livelier songs on what is, as it turns out, a rather lethargic set of music.