|Burnt Out Wreck – ‘Swallow’ (TRHRC/Cherry Red)|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Monday, 13 February 2017 04:30|
“ROCK AIN’T DEAD” a band called Heavy Pettin’ proclaimed away back in 1985: it is a phrase which perhaps did not have as much meaning as resonance as it does 30-plus years later, especially with certain prominent figures within the music business asserting exactly the opposite…
Hold on a second. Hit the rewind button. Did I just mention Heavy Pettin’? Yes, I did indeed… the Scottish big hair hard rock back who briefly threatened to be the “next big thing”. Following the 1983 release of their stunning and immediately effective ‘Lettin’ Loose’ debut album, they almost had the world at their feet… Picked up by Def Leppard Peter Mensch, they toured with Ozzy, Kiss, Ratt and Whitesnake and released a second album, the aforementioned ‘Rock Ain’t Dead’ in 1985. Then, just when things were going so well, it all went horribly too wrong, as it tends to do in the stories of myriad rock ‘n’ roll casualties… Many blame the origin of the band’s downfall being record company Polydor’s insistence that they enter the Eurovision Song Contest, with the song ‘Romeo’: not only was the move an unmitigated disaster (it would be another 20-odd years before Eurovision was ready to accept rock bands) but many fans turned the back on the band, virtually disowning them overnight… it was the beginning of the end and the band broke up in 1988, disappearing into the annals of history, with their third album, ‘The Big Bang’ released posthumously (as it were)…
Wind the clock forward 28 years to late 2016, and out of the blue, Über Rock HQ receives a missive. It is from the wife of HP drummer Gary Moat, telling us that, at least as far as he is concerned, rock most definitely ain’t dead and that he is back, with a new fire in his belly and a desire to make music again. Except this ain’t no Pettin’ reunion, and Moat is no longer behind the kit: no sir, he’s fronting his own band, the somewhat ironically monikered Burnt Out Wreck… and he’s out to prove he’s anything but that. Now, we’ll pause here briefly, as, of course, Moat is no stranger to the frontman role, as he did just that for a few years with another band, Mother’s Ruin, originally formed out of the ashes of HP back in 1991 and whose flame burned brightly for a short period in the first half of the Noughties before in turn being extinguished. But, it was that experience which sowed the seed for what we have before us today… a brand spanking new album for us to swallow (sic), digest and ruminate over.
And one of the first things that strikes you is Moat’s voice: it has that gristly, gritty vibe that resonates with, and draws inevitable comparisons to, Bon Scott and Marc Storace; it’s a comparison which Moat doesn’t reject, but accepts with pleasure, as the former, being a fellow Scot, was one of his idols. Besides, you can’t really change how your voice sounds, can you? You open your vocal chords and what comes out comes out… and the style of your voice almost dictates how the music you play sounds: I mean, you’re hardly gonna record a death metal album with a band fronted by a blues singer, are you?
So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that ‘Swallow’ is an album steeped in the suds of traditional rock ‘n’ roll, of the style now referred to as “classic rock” or even “retro”. Now, both terms, and especially the latter, are bandied about as if it is a bad thing – and, quite often, it is. But, it doesn’t have to be. They can be used to reflect the desire on the part of the artist’s responsible to create a good old-fashioned, fun, rock ‘n’ roll album. And that is exactly what Gary Moat set out to do with the band and the album: create a body of work which nods affectionately to his rock ‘n’ roll yet also reflects where he finds himself standing today.
Opening track ‘Burnt Out Wreck’ definitely is a statement of intent: it hits you straight between the eyes with Moat’s passionate vocal, Adrian Dunn’s winding riffs and melodies and the tensile rhythm created by Alex Carmichael and Paul Gray, ably aided by Moat himself on rhythm guitar and Miles Goodman on the second axe. The title track, and first single, is the first to draw immediate comparisons with the ‘DC of yore, right down to Moat’s cheeky, innuendo-laden but defiant lyrics: “don’t ask me to swallow/’cos I ain’t having it” is as blatant a sidesweep as you'll get in this post-truth era at the lies which pervade every aspect of today’s suck-my-dick-and-love-it society and the problems which that brings about. It also is the first real foot-stomper on the album.
I’m not going to go through the album track-by-track. There are numerous highlights which stick in your mind long after the first, second or even third play – ‘She’s The One’ (which features one of a number of stunning solos from Dunn), ‘Flames’ and closer ‘Best Of Your Life’ being prime examples – but the standout feature of the album is this: it is one crafted by a guy who has rock ‘n’ roll running through his veins and obviously felt frustrated by, for whatever reason, sitting on his hands and not getting out there and doing what he loves doing – and that’s playing that very same rock ‘n’ roll music. He’s obviously having fun being back at it again, and that fun reflects in this, producing a no-nonsense straight-to-the-point rock ‘n’ roll album which is actually a joy to listen to without being taxing. Yes, it’s clichéd in places… but, what the fuck, I’ll swallow the odd cliché here and there if there delivered with the punchlines that this album produces.
‘Swallow’ is out now.
Burnt Out Wreck play The Underworld, Camden on Thursday 23 March.