Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Quireboys' 'Black Eyed Sons' - Album Review

Less than a year after releasing their sixth album, the critically acclaimed Beautiful Curse (see my review here), The Quireboys are back with Black Eyed Sons. 2014 is the band's 30th Anniversary, and they celebrated by playing two gigs at the Half Moon pub in Putney, which was the first venue the band ever played in 1984. To further celebrate this milestone, the band have released a three disc package with plenty of music to enjoy. The first disc is the new studio album Black Eyed Sons, which also gives it's name to the whole package. The second disc contains the band's full acoustic set at last year's Sweden Rock Festival, and the third disc is a DVD of a full show filmed at the O2 Academy in Islington last year. This review is only going to focus on the first disc of the package, but the other two are also excellent and must haves for any fan of The Quireboys. The main core of the band: frontman Spike, guitarists Guy Griffin and Paul Guerin, and keyboardist Keith Weir; have been playing together for ten years now, and their chemistry is excellent. The new album Black Eyed Sons is typical Quireboys, and anybody expecting a radical departure in sound is going to be disappointed. Where Beautiful Curse was more reflective and featured quite a few ballads, this album is shorter, brasher and more in-your-face. That is not to say that there are not some quieter moments here, as there are, but from the outset this album just seems to rock a little harder. Perhaps the decision to involve current touring rhythm section: bassist Nick Mailing (who, incidentally, produced 2004's Well Oiled) and drummer Dave McCluskey (The Union); has helped to beef up the sound a little. On the previous album, Griffin and Guerin played all of the album's bass guitar and a session player, Simon Hanson (Squeeze) played the drums. I commented in my review of that album that the drums sounded a little too quiet for a rock album, and that has been fixed here. McCluskey does a great job on this album and adds to the hard rock feel with his relentless skin-hitting. Chris Tsangarides once again handles the production, and it sounds fantastic. All the slight issues with Beautiful Curse have been rectified here and the rawness oozes out of the speakers helped on by Spike's trademark husky vocals.

The opening number, Troublemaker (Black Eyed Son), highlights the brash hard rock sound I described above. An AC/DC-type riff opens the album before Spike's crooning joins the fray. The song really gets going when the chorus arrives and he belts out the vocals while some excellent slide guitar lines and subtle boogie piano add a surprising amount of depth. This is a classic Quireboys rock song, and gets the album off to a foot-tapping start. What Do You Want From Me? is a little more bluesy and laid back, and gets into a good groove with McCluskey's drum patten and some excellent organ from Weir. Short stabs of lead guitar are present during the intro and return during the choruses, but otherwise the song is definitely organ-driven with guitar playing second fiddle. That said, there is a really short melodic guitar solo about two thirds of the way through that carries on underneath Spike's vocals. Julieanne carries on with the laid back vibe of the previous song and is an acoustic-driven rock song that really sinks into your brain. The main driving force of this song is some simple acoustic guitar chords, but there is plenty of embellishment from electric lead guitar to add extra melody and big keyboards to create an atmospheric backing. This song also contains the first true guitar solo on the album and it expands on the leads used throughout the rest of the song. Spike's voice is made for these kind of songs, and I have no doubts that this will become a firm fan favourite. Double Dealin' sees the return of the rock! There is definitely something of early Whitesnake here, with a slightly funky guitar riff and driving rock organ, it is one of the album's highlights. I especially like the part in the chorus where all the instruments drop out and leave McCluskey's frantic drumming alone for a couple of seconds. This works really well to highlight his playing and gives the song an fantastic feeling of groove which is further built upon during the bluesy solo. Stubborn Kinda Heart is another acoustic-lead piece that benefits from some rock solid bass playing from Mailing and some excellent acoustic slide guitar work that gives the song a slight country feel in places. It is an extremely chilled out number, but the slightly tortured sounding guitar solo changes the mood slightly. Again, this is classic modern Quireboys and it works very well.

Lullaby of London Town, with cowbell-led drumming, follows with one of the best riffs on the album. I have always liked the way Griffin and Guerin work together, often playing two totally different guitar parts that happen to work so well together. This song is extremely tight and has plenty of opportunity for Weir to add his signature organ licks. It has a rather anthemic chorus too, that is sure to go down well live if the band decide to play it. The Messenger kicks off with some beautiful apeggiated guitar lines before the main, strummed lines take over and as act as a good backing to Spike's emotionally-driven delivery. This is very similar to a lot of the material found on Beautiful Curse but it sits on this album very well. The extended, melodic guitar solo fits the song nicely, despite it largely being an acoustic piece. No good ballad is complete without a solo though, so this is probably why it fits so well! You Never Can Tell is a raw, mid-paced rock song that is welcome after the chilled out previous number. Is it probably the least interesting song here, but there is plenty of excellent organ backing and some sleazy guitar riffing that are almost hidden but just creepy out flirtily every so often to tease you. The final two numbers on the album get back to the more laid back sound, and are stunning. Firstly, Mothers Ruin sees Spike feeling reflective as acoustic guitars, organ and delicate drumming swirl around him. Although the song is short, it seems to be in two parts with one long extended chorus happening in the second half with the main bulk of the song coming first. I love the 'chorus' section of this song the most. The lyrics are brilliant and as Spike sings them, the arrangement builds, adding the odd guitar lead that really helps to bolster the emotional impact. Finally, Monte Cassino (Lady Lane) rounds out the album in pure acoustic fashion. This is similar to the material found on 2009's album of reworkings Halfpenny Dancer and it is amazing. The lyrics sound like something that Fish (Marillion) might have written, and Spike sings them with such emotion over the sparse musical backing. It is probably the simplest song the band have ever written, but is so much more powerful for that and works well to bring an excellent album to a close. With two albums in the space of a year, and two big tours to go with them, The Quireboys are showing us that there is a lot left in the tank, despite being around for 30 years! Here's to many more years of success!

The album was released on 16th June 2014 via Off Yer Rocka Recordings. Below is the band's promotional lyric video for What Do You Want From Me?


No comments:

Post a Comment