It's becoming more and more obvious with each year that passes that there's a serious New Wave of Classic Rock going on in the UK right now. Much of that activity is due to new bands burning to bring a new life to the old styles. However, there are old bands out there too who are still doing the business and, if we hadn't already added Thunder to that list, we can safely do so now because this is a peach of an album, as energetic, vibrant and infuriatingly catchy as I've heard in a long time. Certainly, I didn't get those descriptions from the new Cheap Trick album yesterday.
It kicks off with what I'd usually expect to call the catchiest song on the album, Last One Out Turn Out the Lights, which is just aching to get going from moment one. It's simple stuff really, but effectively so in the exact same way that Bad Company could do so much with so little. That's a basic but bouncy beat that had me dancing in my office chair, a seriously sassy riff and a catchy chorus with the sort of soulful backing vocals that have you singing along before you've even finished hearing the song once.
I said that I'd expect to call something that catchy the catchiest song on the album, but this album has Young Man too and that does all the same things with even more overt Bad Company simplicity. It's a catchy song too, if not as instantly so, but it gets there. Oh boy, does it get there! As this one is taking it home, reprising a section in the middle of the song, I felt an generation of pop divas wondering how they can hire these guys to write their hooks.
And that's not too far a stretch to take. There's a lot more here than catchy hooks, but they highlight how much soul and funk is riddled through this music, right down to the brass section. There's also an overt presence for southern rock, that comes in with the brooding Destruction and plants its feet for sure in The Smoking Gun. There's an even a riff on Force of Nature that I swear they stole from the Charlie Daniels Band and from Satan's own section in The Devil Went Down to Georgia.
The southern rock isn't everywhere but it shows up often enough to bring Lynyrd Skynyrd to mind just as often as Bad Company, who are the primary influence here for sure. She's a Millionairess moves in circles between one and the other. I'll Be the One is brave enough to populate the heart of this rock 'n' roll record with a ballad that would have been worthy material for Otis Redding at Motown, and The Smoking Gun is brave enough to boast what sounds exactly like an old school Peter Frampton voicebox right out of the seventies. They may have picked up the organ sound on She's a Millionairess from the same time travel trip.
The thing is that I've never been a huge Thunder fan. I've always liked them, because it's pretty damn hard not to like Thunder, but I remember them being described so often as the next great band from the UK and they never quite were for me. I liked Back Street Symphony and I've liked what I've heard from them since, but I've never heard them sound this great. This album leapt out of the speakers to aurally slap me round the face saying, "Dude, if we don't get you with this one, we're done." And they got me with this one, immediately and often and with emphasis.
To my thinking, and I've listened through this twice now, every sound they try works. They venture into Bryan Adams-esque soft rock and get sleazy like the Faces. There are funky riffs, soulful vocals and an abundance of good old fashioned back to basics rock 'n' roll. There's brass early on to get sassy and, on St. George's Day, some ethnic strings to raise thoughts of Led Zeppelin. And throughout it all there's a mature approach to songwriting that makes for great earworms. I went to the bathroom halfway into my first listen of She's a Millionairess and found myself singing it down the hallway. That's the sign of a great album.