|JD & the FDCs - 'Anatomy Of A Wolf' (Delerict Records)|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Monday, 08 June 2015 03:00|
YES! JD & the FDCs are back with their long-awaited and hugely-anticipated second album... but WAIT! This is different.....
Much has changed since Jamie Delerict and those pesky FDCs released debut album, 'Recognise', Uber Rock's 2012 Album of the Year: guitarist Dazmondo has been replaced by Julio Taylor Mellado, and drummer Danny Gunn by "The Kid", until a change of heart saw him return to a drum stool still warm from his departure.
It's not the change of personnel that is the real game-changer here, though - this band, or the mainman at least, has teetered on the brink several times since the release of that great debut, I feel, but, rather than crash and burn on an ever decreasing downward spiral, the experiences have been harnessed and channelled into a most vital piece of work. This new album is an exorcism, a catharsis, and one of those rare examples of a personal conquest having the ability to thrill others with absolutely nothing lost in the translation. There is lightning bottled here, and it will brighten your life, even if you know that there is a dark, crippling power at its core.
The shift in tone is not wholly apparent at the album's start, however. The opening one-two of 'This Ship Is Going Down' and 'Switchblade Knife' will be familiar to all those well-versed in FDC folklore, with only how great these songs sound offering anything in the way of surprise, and when the album's first single, 'Black Hearts', follows, any eyebrow-raising at its sonic sidestep will surely have been tempered by the fact that we've all heard, and loved, this track already.
'Stop, Look and Fuckin' Listen' is where a whole other dynamic comes into play, the first of two songs that have Dirt Box Disco's Spunk Volcano credited as songwriter and lending backing vocals to, the other being 'The Devil', credited as a Spunk/Delerict co-write. There's an infectious quality to this pair of winners, as you would expect by fusing the powers of the DBD hook machine to the terrace-chanting qualities of the FDCs back catalogue, but there is a melancholia coursing through the tracks that truly provides this album with its spine.
Gone are the Slade-isms of the FDCs of old, the shit-eating grins in gang vocal form, the knowing fun of wrestling references, the littering of guest appearances that made every song feel like an event: this new album is pared-down, a fist rather than a Slade thumb. It's harsher, less sugar-coated, but no less impressive. It loses nothing as it shifts from the feelgood strains of previous records to a starker, more American punk-influenced body of work, and I've loved it ever since it first turned up for review; haven't stopped playing it, in fact.
The one song that I always return to, time after time, is 'Fire Door'; a track that I don't think the FDCs of a few years ago could ever have imagined writing and releasing. It raises the hairs on the back of my neck when its subtle intro pulses into life, Jamie Delerict turning in a vocal more emotional than any of us ever thought possible. It's gorgeous, it's memorable, and it's arguably the best song that this band has ever put its name to.
The bass that introduces next song, 'It's All A Work, Brother', is massive, and the track follows suit. Delerict has said that he's always wanted a rapper to appear on one of his songs and that dream has now become a reality as Nottingham's YouthOracle takes this track to another level. It's the pairing of this and 'Fire Door' on the album's tracklisting that had me realising that I was listening to something truly special.
Aside from the appearances of Messrs Volcano and Oracle (and a few members of the extended musical family offering some backing vocals), the only other guest input of note is that of Johnny Bonnel, frontman of the Swingin' Utters, who has provided 'Anatomy Of A Wolf' with some striking, lo-fi cover art that, I guess, nobody outside of the band saw coming, yet truly captures the spirit of the record; a spirit typified by the title track itself, a brash punk workout that throws an AFI-like backing vocal hook over some raw guitar Anti-Flag in style.
Such is the cocksure, devil-may-care confidence in the FDC camp of 2015 that a cover of Canadian indie pop duo Tegan and Sara's 'Northshore' is made to sound like it was written for the band, even if it is pretty faithful to the original, and the Calabrese-esque opening of the fantastic 'Hoying Bottles At The Moon' only confirms what I thought the first time I heard 'Black Hearts', and that is that Jamie Delerict has never sung better than he does here.
The cover of the Ramones' 'Strength To Endure' offered as a CD-only bonus track only reinforces the attitude on display throughout the running time; that it closes the album is, surely, the biggest, boldest message on 'Anatomy Of A Wolf' - that, no matter what life throws at you, you can still win, can still be beautiful, can still be awesome.
We may well never know what odds were stacked against JD & the FDCs, shouldn't really want to know to be honest, but to be around to see something this fantastic, this essential be born of troubled times is something that we should all take encouragement from.
"The way you walked was thorny, through no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Your suffering is over. Now you will find peace." - The Wolfman, 1941