Here's a new band full of musicians who aren't at all new and I have no idea how to categorise them. I labelled this hard rock as a very vague catchall, and that's one obvious ingredient, but you do need to know a lot more than that. There's a lot of punk in here, some psych, some blues, some garage, some psychobilly, some post-punk. If Lemmy was looking over my shoulder, he'd just call it rock 'n' roll. What it isn't is a metal album, even with sixty per cent of the band known for their work in a couple of metal bands. And, before I rabbit on any longer, I should really introduce those musicians.
Handling vocal duties is Bobby Liebling, who's fronted American doom metal pioneers Pentagram for half a century, since they were founded in 1971. Also from the world of doom metal are two members of a Portuguese band called Dawnrider. That's Hugo Conim on guitar, which he's played in Dawnrider since that band was founded in 2004, and Joao Pedro on drums, his responsibility there since 2014. The other guitarist is Sonny Vincent, a prolific solo artist who was in an early New York City punk band by the name of the Testors; he also spent nine years on the road with Moe Tucker and Sterling Morrison of the Velvet Underground. That leaves Jimmy Recca on bass, best known for being an early member of the Stooges.
There's a lot to note here. For one this has serious garage rock sensibilities. It's lo-fi, but it's also well produced. They didn't just show up, plug in and press record, but the album maintains that live in the studio feel, even though the sound engineer clearly worked hard to get everything just right and the producer knew exactly how to tweak things. It's one of the most immediate and urgent recordings I've heard in a long time and that's aided by a deliberate lack of frills. Nobody's messing around ao clever things in the studio. They're just playing the hell out of their instruments.
For another, the sound is punk but the mindset feels more hard rock. This follows the rules instead of breaking them, at least for the most part. It's clean and riff driven, with guitar solos everywhere. If a song isn't specifically doing something else, Vincent is slipping in a quick solo because he can. He's all over Kitty Gone like a rash. And this makes for a fascinating mixture of two related but very different styles, both of which require this to be played loud.
The most obvious influence may be the Stooges, even though Liebling doesn't always sound like Iggy. That's certainly there at points and he finds the right snarl when he needs to, but he's not channeling any single voice. He sings his own way and only hints at another voice when the song suggests it. He's Glenn Danzig on Over Rover, which is a bizarre take on the Misfits with a doomy riff that reminded me of Atomic Rooster. There's even a spoken word section over a creeping bass and weird guitar noises.
This play with genres is fascinating. There's some Adam and the Ants in Over Rover too and it's overt at the beginning of Fleeting Thoughts, one of the snarling songs for Liebling, which he delivers with a real relish. Human vs. Nature is quintessential garage rock but it has lots of psychobilly in there too, like the band overdosed on the Tommy Gunn Theme. Enough's Enough is straight up Cream, a bluesy performance from Vincent and a dense heavy blues rock sound. Death of My Soul takes the Doors into doom rock.
I liked this a lot, even though some of these songs are predictably short, down to Life's Last Night at a mere minute and a half, even though it features my favourite line: "Lots of rope and not much hope." Six others fail to reach three minutes and only one makes it past four. There's just not much intention for anything to do more than the core of what it's supposed to do. Nobody's indulgent, even in a solo-rich song like Kitty Gone, and nobody wants to spin out choruses ad infinitum, like the Eagles and the thoughts they had about limits. I think there's only one intro here that goes beyond a foreshadowing riff and that's six seconds long.
I have no idea what audience this will reach in 2021, but it deserves to find one. It seems very much to me that they should support Alice Cooper on his next tour. It might seem odd to suggest the godfather of theatrical rock should sign up a band who I can't believe have a stage show, but they fit nicely in his recent dabblings with garage rock. The Limit could easily cover Go Man Go without it seeming out of place amidst their own songs. Of course, I have no idea at all if they're planning to tour or even record again. I hope so.