|The Loyalties - 'Til The Death Of Rock & Roll' (Self Released)|
|Written by Ben Hughes|
|Monday, 28 January 2013 03:00|
It's been a while since The Loyalties graced our Uber Death Decks with some new rock 'n' roll music, isn't it? Formed from the ashes of The Yo-Yo's in 2006 their debut album, 'So Much For Soho', was well received in all the right places on release in 2008, but it didn't do as well as they hoped and after a time the band seemed to have run its course and was put on ice. We thought they were gone for good, the members seemingly moved on to other things. When news filtered through late last year of a new album and book combo on the way the collective ears of the Uber Rock Massive pricked up and got damn well excited at the proposition of the return of "the best UK punk rock band I have heard in ages," as Uber Rock's Johnny Hayward once told the world.
So joining the core of Tom Spencer and Rich Jones (a man who has been involved with more cool bands than I have fingers and toes) the line-up is now completed by Lee Jonez and the addition of Rich Rags on guitars and Simon Maxwell on drums, and here they offer up their sophomore album.
'Til The Death Of Rock & Roll' comes in physical format as a softcover book/CD package, the album a soundtrack or companion if you like to the novel. Co-written by Tom Spencer and Uber Rock's very own Gaz Tidey, it is a 'whodunit' loosely based on characters and situations drawn from their various tour experiences. Set on a tour bus it's a grisly tale of growing internal tensions that eventually lead to the sad demise of one of the touring 12 members, but more of that in a bit, as the music is what I want to talk about firstly.
'TTDOR&R' is more than just a soundtrack to the book, it's a quality rock 'n' roll album in its own right. It stands head and shoulders above the competition in the UK punk rock scene and firmly puts The Loyalties back where they belong, at the top of the pecking order. I don't know how long they have been keeping these songs under wraps, but no more secret songs boys! Lets hope we don't have to wait another 5 years for a follow up.
After a short intro the title track kicks things off in a riotous fashion, you may well have already heard this song and seen the accompanying video that ties in with the theme. It's a song that would not sound out of place on Michael Monroe's 'Sensory Overdrive' to be honest, a belter of an opening song that sets the scene for the album to follow.
Next up the ultra cool 'Meat In The City', probably my favourite track on this here album, from the opening riff to the little, bouncy bass/drums breakdown, it shouts to me the way a rock 'n' roll anthem should, short, sharp and sweet and catchy as fuck, what's not to like here?
'The Will To Kill' features Spencer sharing lead vocals with Nella Johnson, the duo coming on like some modern day Thunders/Palladin combo and it's actually the best song Social Distortion never wrote. It's not the only track that has that SD vibe mainly due to Spencer's distinctive raspy tones I think. The countrified melodies of 'Carry Me Home' and 'I'm The Blues' especially nod their collective heads firmly in the direction of Social Distortion and even early Hanoi Rocks. His sneering vocals the perfect match for the low slung riffage and Hanoi-style lead breaks.
'Whiskey Under The Bridge' has more than a hint of Ramones in its delivery, the fantastic 'Ashtray's Empty' with its cool as fuck pop hook is one that stays with me from first play, as does the following upbeat and frantic 'Pheromone Jones' with its dirty riffs... man, these songs just ooze cool from every virtual pore. Just when I think it can't get any better along comes another belter in the form of 'One Reason', a Hanoi/Rancid hybrid featuring a chorus you know you've heard somewhere before but just can't place it. And that is the key to this album, catchy hooks and melodies aplenty.
'TTDOR&R' is a strong album indeed, infectious melodies are abundant throughout, the McCoy/Thunders licks seemingly fired at will. Punk Rock attitude delivered from the crotch just the way I like it, and I can honestly say, hand on heart, there ain't a bad song on here. From the opening title track that sounds like a future set opener, to the closing 'Rock & Roll Over & Die/Epilogue' that actually does feel like a closing song, they get it right every time.
The book and album are a complete package of the same dark concept and I urge you don't just go for the download, splash out and get the full package, you won't regret it. And that leads us nicely to the book, 13 chapters linked to 13 songs on the album, as I said a 'whodunit' set in the claustrophobic setting of a tour bus. The band, Miss Scarlet are touring America, led by their self-obsessed, and overly opinionated singer/arsehole Jimmy Lloyd Jones. The story builds nicely for the first few chapters, introducing us to the characters, band and road crew, life on a tour bus, living in cramped and filthy conditions of their own making. A feeling of tense claustrophobia is created, close your eyes and you will smell the stench of stale sweat, alcohol and excrement such is the nature of the descriptive writing. You will learn terms such as 'Monkey Face' and 'Wanking Sock' and why these strange and sometimes disgusting pastimes are essential it seems for this touring band to relieve the boredom and other such stresses on tour.
Nice little rock 'n' roll references are cleverly placed throughout the story, such as name-checking a past gig of the band's at the Wild At Heart Club in Berlin, this album was actually recorded at Wild At Heart Studios in Berlin. Kudos should also go to Gaz for managing to name-check Vinnie Vincent and Sigue Sigue Sputnik in the same chapter!
But back to the story, all is not well on the road with Miss Scarlet, there is trouble afoot, and it all seems to stem from the much hated singer's direction. As the main characters are introduced we learn their various motives for wanting the bastard singer gone one way or another. From the jealous band members, to the 17 year old merchandise girl who is sleeping with the singer, to the worried tour manager trying to recover missing funds and keep this drugged up wreck of a band from falling apart at the seams. Each it seems has a valid reason to end his existence, but who will it be?
By Chapter 7 I am transfixed as the plot takes us to a gig and a frantic hunt for the missing singer by a teenager who adores him, a manager who distrusts and hates him and a band who couldn't care less whether they find him or not. Is he mortally wounded, dead in a gutter, or just in a dirty toilet getting a blow job from a starry-eyed teenage fan? Is he even the murder victim at all?
As the story reaches its conclusion all questions are answered, but there are unexpected twists and turns and an ending that I frankly didn't see coming. But you will only discover this first hand by buying the damn thing and that I insist you must do as it's a compelling, quality read that is much more than just a thrown together story or last minute gimmick to sell albums.
All in all 'Til The Death Of Rock & Roll' is a fine package, £25 might seem a lot of money to pay for an album in these hard times, but this package is more than just an album, I feel the addition of the book and the packaging will justify the price tag, and I believe it's gonna be one of the albums of the year. So if you want a lavishly packaged signed product by one of a few UK bands that can give the Scandinavians a run for their money at this type of music, then look no further.
It's good to have them back, long live The Loyalties til the death of rock & roll indeed.