Monday, 29 July 2013

The Quireboys' 'Beautiful Curse' - Album Review

After a very successful start to their career which saw both albums and singles charting more than respectably, The Quireboys almost sunk to being footnotes in the British rock scene - a curio of the early 1990s. However, over the past few years, it seems the band have been rebuilding their reputation and still have a dedicated fanbase worldwide which was maintained through relentless touring. 2013 sees the band release their sixth studio album of original material Beautiful Curse which is their first since 2008's Homewreckers & Heartbreakers. This album saw the band take to the studio as a four piece, with founding members frontman Spike and guitarist Guy Griffin joined by long time members guitarist Paul Guerin and keyboardist Keith Weir. All of the album's bass guitar was handled by Griffin and Guerin and the drums were performed on a session basis by Simon Hanson (Squeeze). Beautiful Curse follows the standard Quireboys blueprint mixing classic British rock music with a hair metal attitude. The usual mix of upbeat rockers and delicate ballads is present but the album seems to be a little more laid back than some of their others, possibly taking influence from their 2009 album of acoustic reworkings Halfpenny Dancer. Overall the production is good, and being handled by veteran Chris Tsangarides you would expect nothing less, but I do think the drums sound very quiet which is odd for a rock album. A little more punch, especially on the bass drum, would have gone a long way to make this album sound even better.

The first song on the album, Too Much of a Good Thing, is classic Quireboys. A simple, yet effective guitar riff, drives the song and Spike's trademark smoky vocals ooze out over the top of it. Boasting a catchy chorus backed up by some bouncing paino it is one of the best songs on the album, and maybe one of the best the band have ever recorded. Chain Smokin' follows and this is a dirty blues tune that you can imagine being played in a dingy backstreet bar somewhere on a Saturday night. It has a slightly sleazy feel to it, especially the sneered chorus and the guitar solo. Talk of the Town is up next and is the first of the album with the laid-back feel that I described above. It is acoustic-led with washings of organ which really brings out the best in Spike's perfectly strained vocal delivery. He sounds great all over the album and is surely one of the most underrated frontmen in rock. Mother Mary is probably the album's best song and I remember it well from when I saw the band live in April supporting Saxon. It is a beautiful ballad with fantastic lead guitar throughout that compliments Spike's vocals well and is very emotive. In a way, it reminds me of Guns N' Roses' ballads like Don't Cry (which Spike has actually sung before on a tribute album) as the guitar has quite Slash-type feel to it. A really fantastic song, and one that I suspect will be in the band's live set for years to come. The next song of note is the dirty rocker Homewreckers and Heartbreakers (note the 'and' not the '&' as in the 2008 album - but it is another example of songs that are not on the album of the same name!). Another simple riff backed up by some excellent organ pushes this song along but it is songs like this that you really notice the strange drum production - this would have really benefited from a little more power. Still, this song is The Quireboys at their bluesy best with some excellent slide guitar work throughout and an anthemic chorus perfect for the live arena.

Diamonds and Dirty Stones follows and this is another real winner. With a very 80s feel to it, I now understand why they sometimes were referred to as 'Britain's answer to Poison'. Again, the lead guitar is excellent throughout with a great solo after the second chorus and leads to back Spike's vocals during the chrouses. The 80s style backing vocals are the icing on the cake, and I would love to hear this one live sometime. The album's title track is up next and gets back to the more laid back vibe. I can almost imagine Jon Bon Jovi singing it, as it has that very accessible rock feel to it despite the huge sound with it's all-encompassing organ. After a couple of more average tracks, we get to the last two songs on the album. Twenty Seven Years seems to be a slightly autobiographical song which contains a lot of beauty and more excellent keyboard work from Weir. The musicianship displayed on this album by all involved is staggering really. The band is known for their catchy songs and excellent live shows but after listening to this album it is clear that they are all proper musicians too. The variety of guitar styles here is quite a surprised for an album of this type, and they keyboard work - espeically the solo on this track - is great. Things come to a close with another laid back number I Died Laughing. It has a very summery feel and is an excellent way to end to the album. Overall, this is another excellent release from one of the Britain's best-kept secrets. I am glad that bands keeping the real tradition of British rock 'n' roll alive are still popular in the 21st Century and The Quireboys are one of the best in that genre!

The album was released on 24th June 2013 via Off Yer Rocka Recordings. Below is the band's promotional soundclip of Too Much of a Good Thing.

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