Friday 28 February 2020

Collateral - Collateral (2020)

Country: UK
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 21 Feb 2020
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While the New Wave of Classic Rock mostly focuses on the seventies, with bands who want to explore their Led Zeppelin or Bad Company influences, that's no hard and fast rule. Case in point: Collateral, from Ramsgate in Kent. Their sound is eighties all the way and primarily rooted in Bon Jovi, especially through the vocals of Angelo Tristan, who's very high in the mix as if the band will be marketed to young ladies as a hot lead singer with a bunch of other guys.

Mr. Big Shot shows that Bon Jovi influence right out of the gate. What's odd is that the guitars vanish for much of the song, giving ground not just for the vocals and drums but even the playful bass of Jack Bentley Smith. It's a catchy number, an obvious single and a very radio friendly one but it points out early that Collateral aren't going to be the heaviest band who identify with the New Wave of Classic Rock. What's not Bon Jovi is maybe Journey.

There are heavier songs, but they're never a heavy band. Promiseland reminds of hair metal bands like Ratt and Fastway, one of that wave who were heavily influenced by Kiss at a point in time when MTV was all over that. If they do a video for this one, it ought to be knee deep in hairspray and mascara and not just decorating the compulsory set of scantily clad young ladies to be lusted over. Merry Go Round may be a little heavier but it's also slower and a little less lively. Lullaby may have the best balance of power chords and woah woah backing vocals.

And so we go. Collateral are never as overtly sleazy as early Mötley Crüe or Poison but they hint at it. However the other direction they hint is country and the unwritten rules of genre mean that you can't be country and sleazy at the same time. Country, especially when sung by men, is ruthlessly family friendly right wing tradition, which is one reason I find it so boring. When Collateral go there, they get less interesting to me.

Midnight Queen is a country song wearing rock clothes, while Get Back to You is a country song wearing country clothes. Neither are bad songs but, along with the tinges of Americana, there's a safety to them that ought to be seen as anathema to more rebellious rock music. They're more akin to the hunks in hats of modern cookie cutter arena country than the Eagles, just with decent guitar solos to punctuate the vocals. If this was 1986, I'd suggest that all the rock girls would love these songs while pretending that their boyfriends hadn't just discovered Metallica.

There are four guys in the band and they're all very good at what they do. I appreciate the craft they put into this album, because it's set up carefully to launch them to stardom, from the vocal builds to the piano tinkles. This is music to listen to in arenas rather than local bars. If that's your thing then Collateral ought to be right up your alley. They're ballsier than your average safe band but they're far safer than your average hard rock band.

I don't want to guess at their future, and I wish them well, but it wouldn't surprise me if the harder edges apparent on songs like Lullaby and Merry Go Round gradually smooth out over albums two and three until the default songs of future Collateral are more pop/country numbers like About This Boy and I'll tune out while millions of others tune in.

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