|Crashdiet - 'The Savage Playground' (Frontiers Records)|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Tuesday, 01 January 2013 02:00|
My promo copy of the last Crashdiet album - 2010's 'Generation Wild' - was the soundtrack to an incident so unforgettable that the record resonated with me possibly a little more than it would have had it not been playing when the person sitting beside me had a little nap.....while driving. Taking the band name a little too literally, one limited skirmish with the central reservation later and 'Generation Wild' was permanently stamped into my memory banks.
With no major incident to accompany the initial playback of 'The Savage Playground', the Swedish glam outfit's fourth album, I found it a little lacking in...something. Couldn't quite put my finger on it. Happily, after repeated plays, I can safely say that this new album sets the bar for records of its ilk to try to leap over in 2013.
I say happily because there has always been something about Crashdiet that has struck a chord with me: the band's debut (featuring original vocalist Dave Lepard who took his own life in January of 2006), 'Rest In Sleaze', was a shot in the arm of a music scene determined to turn itself into handily packaged sleeping pills, and the addition of frontman Simon Cruz in 2009 only added to the badass attitude that creepy-crawled out of every one of the band's pores. There was, of course, a 'singer' in the band between Lepard and Cruz who was as good a fit in Crashdiet as Gary Cherone was in Van Halen. The least said about that pop poseur the better.
I remember hearing Cruz have a (welcome) dig at his predecessor at the Hard Rock Hell festival in 2011 when his band had followed Reckless Love in the onstage running order: it was like watching 'Shout' era Crue follow 'Flesh & Blood' era Poison - cool kids mocking wannabe pop stars. Thankfully, with 'The Savage Playground', Crashdiet haven't lost any of their edge, 'cause edginess is what sets these guys apart from their contemporaries.
'Change The World' opens the album and, with its darkly-themed spoken intro, rocks out like Skid Row could in 2013 if they did the decent thing and got their proper singer back in the band. The guitars chug, the hooks start flying out, and Crashdiet are back in business. 'Cocaine Cowboys', the first single from the album, follows and is a suitably massive tune: a huge riff grooves out around a great vocal from Cruz, first subtle then stabbing, as the band pump out what every album needs early doors - a proper barnstormer of a song.
'Anarchy' hits the air and the ears in some style, a barbed hook wrapped around retro cock rock guitar, before 'California' throws out a real commercial haymaker - it's songs like this that make careers out of raw promise. But, just as soon as the moneymen prepare to knock on the door to CDHQ, the band throw out one of those middle-finger-in-the-air curveballs that endear them to me so: 'Lickin' Dog', complete with ball lickin' sound effects, rides in on a riff that The Cult would be proud of before uttering every profanity in the Profanisaurus. That edge again - let's hope that the band never lose it lest, I fear, we would lose them to the undesirables.
There are times when listening to 'The Savage Playground' when I suddenly regress back to the teenager playing with a rock hard five incher while listening to hard rock twelve inchers from the likes of D'Molls or Kingpin. There is a definite '80s sound smeared over the album - the vintage Crue guitar chug over 'Circus', the Seb Bach-like vocal line and 'Look What The Cat Dragged In' axework in 'Sin City, for example - but, just like the few other bands who have looked to the glam icons of the past and got their modern take on it perfectly executed (rather than murdered), Crashdiet pull it off as the band has its own look, sound and attitude: this isn't '80s hair metal by numbers, this is a band who pay homage to the past by kicking ass in the present.
The album, at thirteen tracks, is maybe a song or three too long (possibly the reason why it didn't smack me upside the head on first listen), but that is hardly going to trouble fans of the band who will certainly get their money's worth upon purchase of 'The Savage Playground', and the latter stages of the album certainly have their moments; 'Snakes In Paradise', for example, is a great song that plays out like Velvet Revolver in that two month period when they were an essential listen, while 'Excited' has an epic, power ballad meets pop rock feel to it that is sure to appeal to many. Did I mention the word epic? Save that for the final track, the seven plus minute 'Garden Of Babylon'.
Few bands attempting to peddle the glam/sleaze thing right here, right now do it as well as Crashdiet. The only band who will really threaten the hold on 'The Savage Playground' as 2013's best example of a dirty glam album is Hardcore Superstar, whose 'C'mon Take On Me' will see release in a couple of months. Then it'll be just like the middle of the last decade when 'Rest In Sleaze' and the self-titled HCSS album kicked the teeth in of all would-be contenders. What goes around comes around.....