Sunday, March 27, 2016

Album Review: The New Roses - Dead Man's Voice

The biggest news in the rock world right now is the yet to combust reunion of the key pieces of Guns N' Roses. For the first time in ages, it seems that rock and roll has a mainstream moment, although it's one that I am not in the slightest excited about. I don't see the value in watching a group of people try to act like it's twenty-five years ago, especially when they're going to sound terrible. That's what records are for. I would much rather focus on the here and now, which brings me to The New Roses. With a name that invites comparisons to the legendary Guns, they are a more intriguing prospect for the year 2016 than the original, and if this album is a harbinger of the future, there's no need to ever worry about Axl Rose again.

Before we get any further, let me make one thing clear; The New Roses bear resemblance to the past, but they are in no ways copying anyone. When writing, we need to make comparisons, and the obvious one is also the best in this case.

"Heads Or Tails" kicks off the record with one of those purely 80s Sunset Strip riffs. It's jangly, dirty, and dripping with just the right amount of debauched blues. There's a pumping energy in the song, and when Timmy Rough's gravelly vocals hit the chorus, it feels like 1988 has found a hole in the space-time continuum. In case that isn't clear, it's a heck of a fun, catchy song. Those are the two words that best describe the album; fun and catchy. The one thing that era of rock music had going for it was that the bands back then played rock and roll because it was fun, and they wanted everyone to have a good time. Sure, it was a disease-riddled time that in hindsight ruined countless lives, but the music it created had the right spirit. That's what The New Roses take from the past.

It's hard not to listen to "Thirsty" and not find yourself tapping your foot and shouting along with the chorus. That right there is what rock and roll should be, and what it needs to be. If anyone ever complains about a song with a simple but cool riff, and a sticky chorus, they're idiots. That's all you need, and that's what The New Roses deliver time and again on this record. They don't waste time on filler, or on 'artistic' expressions that try to convince you there needs to be something more than good ol' rock and roll. There doesn't, and they know it.

The guitar work channels Slash's swagger, churning out riffs that bristle with the gritty, dirty sound that makes you feel like you're listening to a band that should be playing in a dimly lit bar for a hundred rabid fans. The production fits it to a tee, clear enough to sound great, but leaving the performances raw enough to sound like a live rock band trying to rip your face off. They find the perfect balance, and as a result this is a pure sounding rock and roll record, just the way I wish more of them would be.

The band even throws a few curve-balls in. The title track soaks up some Western attitude to become an outlaw anthem, while "I Believe" reverses the norm by raging through the verses into a soft chorus. Both songs tweak the formula just enough, and they're clear hits. But I could say that last bit about just about everything on the album. These eleven songs are not a couple of standouts surrounded by competent filler, but are a tight package of equally stellar numbers. The New Roses use these forty-two minutes to pack the record with killer songs, and leave anything less on the cutting room floor.

To circle back to the beginning, The New Roses are aptly named, because they've given us an album that would have worked well as the follow-up to "Appetite For Destruction"; hookier to appeal to a wider audience, but still a gritty rock album that reeks of authenticity. While Axl Rose has spent the last two decades destroying his own legacy, as well as giving all of rock a bad name, The New Roses have taken up the challenge of restoring rock and roll to what it used to be. "Dead Man's Voice" is a great record, and one that I'm penciling in as one of the Top Ten of the year.

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