Monday, 21 January 2013
The Gentlemen Bastards - ST (album review)
Four dudes on choppers cruising down the rock n roll highway crashing every party as they go. The Gentlemen Bastards aren't going to change the way you think about rock n roll, nor do they set out to. They don't play retro rock, but their sound is as much an extension of the 70s as anything by today's best northern European hard rock bands. Their reach may be limited to the immediately tangible but their stride is colossal, in other words, they stick to what is recognizably hard rock, but knock on every door on the block, hitting on many facets of the genre without veering off into detours. They've got short songs, long songs, slow building epic songs, and uptempo cruisers but manage to maintain a strong focus. They can busk and they can strut but they don't once appear silly or take what they do lightly. For theirs is a sacred duty, the art of rocking balls off.
The whole of side A is like one long run-on highlight with the best moments being "Neverland" and what is undoubtedly the best song on the album, "Deja Vu". Even the band themselves seem to know how good a song they have on their hands and rise to the occasion with their best performance on the album, achieving a nice balance of ambition and ability. Vocalist Will Quinn has a Karl Agell or John Garcia thing going on at times and tries to go a little further than what his natural abilities will allow for, often straining his voice throughout the record (isn't that what it's all about?), but colors within the lines, shall we say, perfectly on this song.
The album's centerpiece "NMR" opens side B with a monumental eleven minute exploration of dynamics that the band pulls off quite well. This is as slow as the Gentlemen Bastards get, sounding incredibly menacing with perhaps their heaviest riff yet. Heavyweight riffs have a gravity to them that go positively Jovian when slowed down and nowhere is this clearer than on "NMR". After four minutes or so the band cranks up the tempo getting a great snare march from drummer Dave Stanley that suits the mood of the song exactly and increases the tension. The song is a terrific example of what a band can achieve in a longer song without losing focus
Another standout track is "If Only". Nice punchy riff and a sweaty little psychedelic detour in the middle adorned with a catchy chorus, it's an excellent showcase of what the band can accomplish in a jam packed four and a quarter minutes. The band opts for a thicker, low-end driven sound on the appropriately titled "Big Bad Wolf". It's easy to imagine a ten foot tall wolf stalking the listener through the woods just a little after dark. For that reason this may be the "Hellhound On My Trail" for the 21st century stoner generation. Closing track "Start The Show" recalls Witchfinder General and is centered around the gulping and galloping bass work of Böðvar Böðvarsson.
The Gentlemen Bastards marry the best hard rock elements of the 70s and 90s creating a hairy-knuckled dragging, low-browed love-child drunk on PBRs and testosterone. I like to think that this is what grunge would have really sounded like if it had emerged in the 1970s, rather than Godfather-of-grunge Neil Young.
Highlights include: "Deja Vu" and "NMR"
Total Run Time: 51:24
From: Huntsville, Alabama
Genre: Hard Rock, Stoner, Blues, Grunge
Reminds me of: Clutch, Cortez, Metallica, Ted Nugent, Witchfinder General
Release Date: June 1, 2012
Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Road trip to Jupiter, baby.
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