Monday, 9 September 2019

Status Quo - Backbone (2019)



Country: UK
Style: Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 6 Sep 2019
Sites: Facebook | Official Website | Wikipedia

Status Quo are an institution. Francis Rossi and Alan Lancaster founded the band as far back as 1962, the same year as the Rolling Stones, but everyone remembers the late Rick Parfitt as their guitarist and he's no longer there. He was in the band for almost half a century, from 1967 to 2016, and he was on every one of what was apparently 32 studio albums, this being the first without him. I wondered if Rossi would keep the band going but I'm glad that he did.

I came in exactly halfway into that long run of albums, with 1983's Back to Back, which is coincidentally the line I'd draw between their old stuff and their new stuff. After a couple of psychedelic pop albums, they found their recognisable hard rock style and nailed it with 1972's Piledriver. While the rest of the decade saw a lot of commercial success, they were still a heads down no nonsense boogie band in 1983. By the time they recorded In the Army Now in 1986, that no longer held true. They've been a pop band for a pretty long time now.

And I highlight that now because this is heavier than I remember the Quo at any point since Back to Back. Cut Me Some Slack and Backing Off aren't pop songs looking for yet another chart position, they're old school rockers. I Wanna Run Away with You would sound like a late seventies hit if it didn't clearly have 21st century production values. The same goes for Get Out of My Head, but the early seventies; it's the best thing I've heard from the Quo in almost four decades. Even the title track, with its woo woo, na na and round vocal sections, runs on simple but effective driving guitars.

This makes me happy. The Quo got very comfortable with the charts and their albums featured a lot of songs that were all about vocals and keyboards. On this album, the guitars are front and centre and the drums aren't far behind them in the mix. Of course we can hear Francis Rossi singing but even when he finds a commercial melody, like on Better Take Care, it's still a guitar song. Frankly, I need to go back to 2011's Quid Pro Quo, the previous studio album, to see if this approach is brand new or I'm just out of touch.

Parfitt's replacement here is Richie Malone and he sounds right at home with this material. Hilariously, he seems to still have a day job, but I presume that may not last as the Quo are touring a lot lately. The other new fish is Leon Cave on drums, who took over from Matt Letley in 2013. It's good to see Andy Bown and Rhino Edwards still there, as they've been for decades. Bown joined on keyboards in 1976, though he'd been guesting since Hello! in 1973, and Edwards joined on bass in 1985.

Rossi has said that, "This new material had to be seriously good" and that's probably fair. The band had to prove their relevance in a post-Parfitt line-up and I'm surprised at how well they did that. There's no way that anyone could mistake this for any other band, but it wouldn't be difficult to think of this as having been released a number of decades earlier than it was. I'm rather shocked at how much I liked this, though not all the songs are up to the same level of quality. But there's definitely life in the old dog of two head yet.

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