Tuesday 12 February 2019

Gin Annie - 100% Proof (2019)

Country: UK
Style: Melodic Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 25 Jan 2019
Sites: Facebook | Official Website | YouTube

On their Facebook page, Gin Annie describe what they do "high-octane hard rock" and I'm not going to argue with that because this is bouncy, catchy stuff that often still holds a kick in its guitar sound and punchy drums, but I have to point out that Dave Foster's voice is much softer and more restrained than I would have expected from that description and the band and album become much softer and more restrained because of that.

Check out Chains, for instance, where we can almost see the musicians on stage getting vicious with their instruments but Foster continues to croon over them. He might be singing, "Take these chains off me," but it sounds like he's very happy with those particular chains, thank you very much. A song later, the band rock out with an up tempo solo in the middle of New Bad Habit, but Foster seems far too polite and positive to have any bad habits, let alone a new one.

Now, before I get punched by rabid fans, I don't mean to suggest that he isn't up to par, because he has a good voice, frankly a very good voice, and he uses it well. However it's a honeyed voice and that's odd to hear in a hard rock band that aims for "high-octane" material. It often feels like the band behind him wants to fight that by adding even more edges as compensation.

And that increases as the album runs on because it seems to get heavier with each song. After Next 2 Me, Phill Burrows's bass starts to get more prominent and the twin guitar attack of Byron Garbett and Brian Green finds a lot more power. Damage kicks in hard and stays there. Fallin' is even harder and it got my head moving nicely. If All I Want ever felt like it wanted to speed up and get raucous, it could become an Anthrax song.

I can't help but wonder how much of this is deliberate.

Early on, Foster's voice is the dominant force here and it's a friendly creature that would play well to the ladies I remember back in the '80s who wouldn't have listened to rock music at all, well except for that one singer and that other one and, oh yeah, that one and... Next 2 Me is the pinnacle of that. It's easily the best story track on the album and it's quite obvious single material, even though it's easily the longest song too. It's radio friendly stuff but just a little bit edgy too.

After that, Foster's voice fades into the background a little as the band step up their game and take over with heavier material. I got into these songs a lot more, but maybe the earlier ones are gateway material to get people this far into the album. If so, I'm all for it!

And then we get to Haunt Me, which is the entire album in a microcosm. It starts out soft like a ballad but adds edges until it's a heavier piece. And hey, Foster proves here that he can do more than be polite. He belts out some of this song and it's glorious to hear. He does the same on the singalong song that ends the album, Born to Rock n' Roll.

I liked this on first listen and I like it still after half a dozen times through to try to figure out why Gin Annie took the approach they did. I still find myself a little confused but I'm still entertained.

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