Off Yer Rocka Records (label)
16 June 2014 (released)
30 June 2014
Happy birthday to The Quireboys, the band that is on this planet for the sole purpose of keeping British rock ‘n’ roll alive! And what a hellish good job they make of it. Thirty years on, and them Boys seem to go stronger than ever… what better way to celebrate then with a new, triple whammy CD/DVD-set!
Like precursor ‘A Beautiful Curse’, the new album, ‘Black Eyed Sons’, is elaborately presented in a stylish foldout-cover, and once again with a strong Mexican Day Of The Dead theme running through the design. It is further enhanced with images of skulls and flowers, candles, tarot cards and incorporated band photos, while the album’s spine suggests a medieval grimoire. How very elaborate and fitting, and a visual delight for devotees of the occult like yours truly. However, as the old adage “never judge a book by its cover” goes, I am happy to report that the musical content is just as exciting, oh yes!
DISC 1 (Black Eyed Sons) offers ten new gems ranging from the trademark Quireboys sound to harder songs spiked with stone-heavy riffs as well as elements of funk and Americana. Opening- and title track ‘Troublemaker – Black Eyed Sons) thunders along with punch and pulse, immediately inflicting the listener with rock ‘n’ roll fever and a craving for more. ‘What Do You Want From Me’ is solid rock balladry of the finest, complete with excellent key and riff work, but fans will recognise the radio-friendly ‘Julianne’ as potential hit fodder – containing all the signature ingredients like great harmonies, sing-along-tune, and of course Spike’s famous gravel voice.
The mood shifts to harder again on ‘Double Dealin’ with its groovy and pacey guitar intro, the twangy rhythm sometimes reminds of ZZ Top (even if I get my legs broken for saying it) – it’s a right old scorcher and a solid rock number. We get a flavour of Americana on ‘Stubborn Kinda Heart’, my personal favourite here and a beautifully crafted, played, and sung track infused with hearty country rock. There’s irony to be found in ‘Lullaby Of London’, which doesn’t sound like a lullaby at all but perfectly captures the pros and cons of pacey and stressful life in the capital city in matching musical form. Stretchy riff work dominates ‘The Messenger’, and is further applied on and combined with cool honky-tonk key play on ‘You Never Can Tell’ – a truly wicked little blues-rock number in the best Stones vein!
‘Mother’s Ruin’ is yet another nicely textured rock ballad, with poignant closing song ‘Monte Cassino (Lady Lay) offering words for thought. A hauntingly melancholic song about a soldier who heads off to fight in the field where the flowers never grow, and who hopes that his beloved never has to read the letter addressed to her in case he won’t return. Spanish-style acoustic guitar chords sweeten the bitterness of the lyrical content.
DISC 2 (Unplugged in Sweden) delights with a ten song acoustic set, starting with the wonderfully bluesy ‘Don’t Bite The Hand That Feeds You’ – transformed into a fantastic little barroom ditty with piano and harmonica. I’m sure the ghost of the late Willy DeVille joined in from above and smiled. Quireboys favourites like ‘There She Goes Again’, ‘Devil Of A Man’, ‘I Don’t You Love You Anymore’ (superb guitar by Guy Griffin on that one), and ‘Sex Party’ perfectly demonstrate that the band’s rockier repertoire lends itself perfectly to be given the acoustic treatment, while more mellow staples such as ‘Mona Lisa Smiled’, ‘Have A Drink With Me’ or ‘Sweet Mary Ann’ are stripped down further and it works brilliantly, especially ‘Sweet Mary Ann’ seemed to have had the crowd going. I say “seemed” deliberately, as Spike’s witty banter is unfortunately often cut short mid-sentence. A bit of a shame, as it would have provided insight into the overall atmosphere of this acoustic rock ‘n’ roll gig. At least Keith Weir’s one-key piano joke on the aforementioned ‘Sweet Mary Ann’ wasn’t edited out.
DISC 3 (Beautifully Cursed in London DVD) turns out to be an absolute treat for all those living in self-imposed exile… like me north of the English/Scottish border. Yes, with the mere press of a button fans can re-live and join in the feel-good atmosphere that Quireboys live gigs usually spread faster than a fire in a hay barn. With a mix of back-catalogue classics and songs from the album ‘Beautiful Curse’ the live gig in question was recorded at the Islington Academy, London, in October last year. With his usual mix of jokes, on-stage antics and microphone twirling, Spike entertained the crowd from the word ‘go’, and while it didn’t descend into a sex party, it sure was one hell of a party which started after 7 O’ Clock. Flanked by fellow Quireboys Paul Guerin (guitars), Guy Griffin (guitars), Nick Mailing (bass guitar), Keith Weir (keys) and Dave McCluskey (drums), the band had as much fun as the fans, never letting down the energy levels for even one moment. The DVD furthermore contains some footage of acoustic studio sessions, mini-interviews with the band, and the promo video for ‘Mother Mary’.
“We are The Quireboys and this is rock ‘n’ roll” announces Spike at the beginning of every concert. It sure is, and long may they reign!