Monday 14 December 2020

Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons - We're the Bastards (2020)

Country: UK
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 13 Nov 2020
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I reviewed Phil Campbell's long planned collaborative solo album last year, but here's the new release from his current band, Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons. In case you've been on another planet for the last few years, that's the former Motörhead guitarist and his three sons: Todd on the other guitar, Tyla on bass and Dane on drums. Only vocalist Neil Starr isn't related, as far as I'm aware. This is their second album, following 2018's The Age of Absurdity and a self-titled EP in 2016.

As you might imagine, there's a strong Motörhead influence here, but it's not overwhelming. The two most obvious Motörhead songs are Keep Your Jacket On and Hate Machine but, oddly, they remind of the older style when that band was a trio with Fast Eddie on guitar rather than the later, heavier band with Campbell on board. Mostly, this is hard rock with a strong grounding in the blues, and we realise that long before Desert Song hammers the point home, plus an influence from a whole slew of British hard rock legends, especially when it comes to riffs.

Promises are Poison often reminds of Michael Schenker-era UFO, which is never a bad thing. Lie to Me is built on a Black Sabbath feel with some riffs that sound rather familiar but which I can't place. Yes, I'll be waking up in the middle of the night Thursday thinking, "Oh yeah, it's...". Talking of familiar, it is very difficult to listen to Animals without hearing Owner of a Lonely Heart. That's surely one of the most recognisable riffs ever and this borrows the first three of its five notes, albeit heavied up so the result doesn't sound like Yes at all. It's still distracting though. Destroyed is a punkier number with a Ramones feel.

This older time feel is mostly countered by the vocals of Neil Starr, who also sings lead for the grunge-inspired States and Empires. He's sung for alternative rock bands too so his background seems to be a lot different to the Campbells, but he fits very well alongside them. Combined with the fact that this is clearly hard rock rather than heavy metal, the end result is that I'm not surprised that the band are so popular in the New Wave of Classic Rock community.

This is another generous album, with the core thirteen songs taking us well past fifty minutes. Twelve of them are very consistent, with the closer, Waves, playing in a very different, much more alternative style. I can only assume that this is a song that comes from Starr's roots rather than the Campbells. It feels a lot softer than anything that comes before it, but it's not really a ballad and it sounds decent, holding my interest for almost seven minutes because it's easily the longest song here.

I wouldn't mind hearing an album from a band who make songs like Waves, though I'd prefer one from Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons, one that technically wraps up with a set of four bonus songs that were recorded live at the Kerrang! Sessions, whatever they are. That's Big Mouth, from their 2016 EP, Freak Show and Dark Days from their debut album. The older songs sound good, Dark Days especially, but the new ones sound better. And, to take it all home: a cover of Rock 'n' Roll, not by Led Zeppelin but by Motörhead. It's not necessary at all but it is interesting, especially it's easily the heaviest thing on this album.

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