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Friday, 2 March 2012

Reviews: Meatloaf, Band Of Skulls, Foxy Shazam

Meat Loaf: Hell In A Handbasket (Sony Music)

Let's just get this out of the way The Loaf has never been able to follow up on the Jim Steinman penned Bat Out Of Hell. He has had his moments BOOH2, BOOH3 and Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself all featured some excellent songs and Meat in full baroque mode. Also with 2010's Hang Cool Teddy Bear there were some genuinely old-school Loaf songs however Hell In A Handbasket is not a good follow up, (and I am saying this as Meat Loaf fan) the album is particularly downbeat with the various writers not really getting the Meat Loaf sound. The ballads have always been overwrought and not depressing as they are on this album and the rockers are all a little mid-paced not crazy flights of fancy as they are in the past. What made many of the non-Steinman albums good was that they emulated the sound pioneered on the multi-platinum debut; the only songs that get close are Our Love And Our Souls, Fall From Grace and Stand In The Storm. The rest of the album just doesn't sit right it as it hasn't got that distinctive Steinman sound. All power to the band trying maybe trying something a bit different but when this is your 11th album you really want to stick to the sound you have. There is also a truly awful cover of California Dreaming which is just a travesty. I know it sounds like I'm going on about it but the Steinman sound really is part of the appeal now Meat's voice is not what it was. Please next time for everyone's sake get some writers who understand this; people like James Michael (Sixx A.M), Justin Hawkins (The Darkness), Eric Sean Nally (Foxy Shazam) and if humanly possible Steinman himself. Very disappointing. 4/10

Band Of Skulls: Sweet Sour (Electric Blues/Pias)

Southampton 'Electric Bluesers' (their description) return with their second album. This is similar to the first but has enough differences to make it an improvement, (which is a mean feat as their debut is pretty damn good). Starting out with the rhythmic and trippy title track the band lull you into a hypnotic vibe and with just hint of that extra note of heaviness; before they move into the Muse-like Bruises. The vocal interplay between guitarist Russell Marsden and bassist Emma Richardson is excellent with Emma's bass and Matt Hayward's drums bringing the majority of the heavy beat and Marsden's psychedelic guitar noodling over the top. This can be seen especially on the very atmospheric and hazy Lay My Head Down, which means that there are three slower more atmospheric tracks one after another which lull you into a false sense of security before The Devil Takes Care Of His Own and Wanderluster bring the heavy garage-rock sound that the debut featured. This album hasn't got the immediacy of its predecessor nor does it have the tempo but the technicality is more technical, the writing is better and the heaviness is heavier. A cracker of an album but very much a grower. 8/10

Foxy Shazam: The Church of Rock & Roll (I.R.S Records)

Cincinnati rockers Foxy Shazam return with their fourth album and the follow up to the excellent last self-titled album. The album opens in fine style with the (Somewhat) title track Welcome To the Church Of Rock & Roll which has serves as an intro and is gospel-rock dripping with funk. This carries on with the very crude I Like It which is an ode to rear ends that is almost Fat Bottomed Girls part 2. Unlike on their last album which was almost a Queen record this record has very Queen overtones but blends, funk, soul, gospel, blues and even big band jazz especially on Last Chance At Love which shows off the fantastic horns of Alex Nauth who is the unsung hero of this album as he lifts many of the songs into an upper realm. Eric Sean Nally's voice is still pure Freddie with Sky White's keys jangling, jarring and adding some great effects to the tracks. The acoustic blues of Forever Together is followed by the slow burning Toto-like (It's) Too Late Baby turns into a guitar freak out at its rocked up crescendo with Loren Turner channelling his inner Brian May, Wasted Feelings sounds like a Prince doing a Stax record. All in all this album is as good as its predecessor if not a little more slow burning however it is still a great album from an immensely talented and downright entertaining band. Also the album is produced by The Darkness' Justin Hawkins who also co-writes all the tracks and does a good job as producer too (which bodes well for the new Darkness album). This is a good album from a band who should be so much bigger and hopefully due to their link with Hawkins’s they will be. Cracking. 9/10

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