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Saturday, 8 April 2017

Reviews: The Texas Flood, Pokerface, Michael Schenker

The Texas Flood: Overworked And Underpaid (Off Yer Rocka)

When you name your band after the debut album of one of the greatest blues-rock players of all time (the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughn) you need to impress and on their debut album Young Dogs, Old Tricks they showed talent that was evidently there if not totally recognised. Overworked And Underpaid changes that from the opening line of "I come up smelling roses" the band have discovered a newfound sense of dirty grit. Funky basslines mix with strutting blues guitar for the best for the kind of foot shuffling blues rocking SRV was renowned for. As I've said Roses kicks off the record in fine style with filthy bass driven rocker kudos to Ben Govier, it's followed by Treading Water which is based around Tom Williams giving it all of the cowbell (and you can never have enough of that folks).

This Port Talbot three piece really know how to rock out, in true power trio style all three of them function like clockwork Govier and Williams laying the intricate base for Tom Sawyer's Southern (Welsh) drawl and excellent guitar playing. Overworked And Underpaid sits as the end of transitionary period for the band, they've grown considerably as a band and their songwriting has benefitted, there is a sense of lamentation to the countryfied Forget About You, a boogie to Up In Smoke and they ramp up the swagger on Ain't No Cowboy. On Overworked And Underpaid The Texas Flood have upped their game significantly it looks like The Texas Flood can stand the weather and they are here to stay. 8/10

Pokerface: Game On (M&O Music)

Russian thrashers Pokerface's second album has been two years and numerous ex members in the making, since the debut record (reviewed in these pages) the front of stage line up has been replaced wholesale with only bassist Doctor and drummer Free Rider remaining from the first album. The new arrivals to the group include Vadim Whitevad on rhythm guitars and six string vixen Xen Ritter on lead guitars with former singer Delirium Tremens being replaced by the enchanting Alexandra Orlova.

Beware though folks as just because this band features two ladies they aren't some symphonic/Gothic metal act this is flesh ripping thrash at it's most violent with ear-splitting riffs, bone crunching rhythm sections and demonic vocals from Alexandra, imagine Arch Enemy but with a D.I.Y attitude and you'll be near, there seems to be a theme of gambling running through the record with tracks named Play Or Die, Blackjack, Straight Flush and Jackpot but in the maelstrom of lightning speed riffage, roars and barks and blast beats any lyrics are rendered almost indecipherable by the scratchy production still if you want explosive thrash metal grab your dice and take a punt on Game On. 6/10

Michael Schenker: Fest Live (Inakustik) [Review By Paul]

Old school reunions and retro outfits are all the rage these days. Rock and metal fans seem to be unable to satisfy their thirst for the "good old days". The recent Thunder tour is an example of this, with sell out arenas throughout the UK. The adulation that The Dead Daisies continue to receive continues to bewilder me. It's not just here though, as this album proves. The Japanese have always loved German guitarist Michael Schenker, in that strange obsessional way that they love Cheap Trick amongst others. Back in 1982, the MSG double live release Live At Budokan was a must have release. Full of early classic MSG tracks, it was a demonstration of how exciting the band were ... at the time. Since then, Schenker has travelled a varied path, with his most recent line ups headlining Hard Rock Hell and Steelhouse a few years ago along with support slots to Priest as well as Academy sized headline shows.

So, what a wheeze to regurgitate the original band and add on a few extras to make a few more quid, because that is exactly how Fest Live comes across. Recorded live at the International Forum in Tokyo on 24 August 2016, it features original vocalist Gary Barden, Graham Bonnett who appeared solely on Assault Attack and Robin McCauley who formed the McCauley Schenker Group which lasted from 1986 to 1992. It also features drummer Ted McKenna, bassist Chris Glenn and Steve Mann on keys and rhythm guitar. Fest Live highlights many things. Firstly, Gary Barden isn't a great singer. He never had a particularly powerful voice and it shows here as he strains his way through Attack Of The Mad Axeman, Victim Of Illusion, Cry For The Nations and Let Sleeping Dogs Lie.

Secondly, Graham Bonnett's contribution to MSG was limited in both time and quality. Assault Attack is solid but Dancer is and always has been rubbish. Thirdly Robin Mcauley wrote some of the blandest songs ever recorded. Name one that stands out amongst the Schenker catalogue? Fourthly, metal Mikey remains a superb guitarist. His work throughout is as abstract and unconventional as ever. He remains one of my all time favourites. Fifth, only Phil Mogg should sing Rock Bottom, Doctor Doctor and Shoot Shoot. The climax to the show with all three vocalists brutalising Doctor Doctor in that horrible karaoke style is the only proof I need. Singing "nah nah nah nah " over the start is unforgivable. Sixth, the early MSG did have some great tunes. The aforementioned Attack Of The Mad Axeman remains a real rocker. And finally, Glenn and McKenna are a formidable engine room. Overall this album appears to be a record of days which are very much viewed through rose tinted spectacles. It's a bit meh. 5/10

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