I liked Doomsday Outlaw's third album, Hard Times, a few years ago, but had some problems with it too. This feels more consistent and has a better flow, but I'm still unsure I can define what their sound actually is because they seem to be a few different things. Sometimes, for instance, they're as British as you might expect from their roots in Derbyshire or wherever they're actually from, as I keep finding different answers to that question. However, sometimes they seem to be aiming for a completely American sound, even though it's never a consistent one. They're a strong band. I just wish I knew what they were trying to be.
There's a lot of that British sound in a couple of songs early on. On My Way kicks off with a very down to earth glam rock sound, with the sass of the Dogs d'Amour and the approachability of Mott the Hoople. It shifts a little away from that but retains some jauntiness in its guitars. It's a good song because it feels big in its grand sweep but focused in its details, wrapping up with a soaring vocal from Phil Poole over the guitars of Steve Broughton and Gavin Mills. There's more Mott on If This is the End, with hints of piano and harmonica haunting the background, but it's also sleazier and more laid back than On My Way.
However, the American side creeps in even there. If This is the End has big choruses, emphatic big choruses that sweep and soar, Poole reminding of Scott Stapp of Creed, of all people, as he does a lot on this album. However, it doesn't feel like a song that should float over a Florida megachurch; it's a song for a small club, even if it would fill it so effectively that it makes us think the venue is a level larger and wonder at the same time why the band aren't playing venues a level beyond that.
There's a southern rock feel to the opener, In Too Deep, and the band keep revisiting that sound as the album runs on. It Never Gets Old is another example, even if those are quintessentially British riffs. It's often Poole who adds the American aspects, but here it's whoever handles the keyboards because they add a revival element to the song, as they do with Walking the Line as well. Nowhere Left to Hide highlights the Black Crowes as a comparison, as do other songs like One More Sip and Turn Me Loose, the latter of which adds some sassy Aerosmith too.
That's a lot of different sounds thrown into a big melting pot to flavour this elusive recipe, and I'm yet to mention just how much The Little Things, which wraps up the album, reminds of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I wasn't expecting that, so Doomsday Outlaw can still keep me on the hop, even with no songs that feel like intruders, something I felt last time out with the ballad Into the Night. This time, the closest contender goes the other way, You Make It Easy turning up the heaviness with an approach that could actually generate a pit. What's odd is that there are Pantera guitars here but Led Zeppelin transitions too. And it works as that sort of strange hybrid.
And so Damaged Goods plays better for me than Hard Times, but I'm going to stay with a 7/10 for it because, as good as it feels throughout, it rarely feels great. Every one of these songs is a worthy inclusion on a fourth album but none of them want to camp out in my brain. Oddly, the moment I'd highlight as most impressive is pushed to the very end of the album, because there's a guitar solo that doesn't start until three and a half minutes into the five of The Little Things. It's not the most emphatic solo I've ever heard but it's delightful and it hangs around in the background until it can get a very tasty final word.
While it prompts us to start the album over again every time, the catch, of course, is that we have to wonder where that sound is within the first eleven tracks. It's there, a little darker, when If This is the End opens, but the guitars get stuck into the riffing to support those big choruses and thus forget about soloing. When the solo does arrive, and it's a good one, it's a grittier one that takes us in a very different direction. And that's what Doomsday Outlaw seem to do, keep taking us over here and over there and back again until we wonder where we actually are.