Down here at the bar in the hole, evenings of late have been spent catching up on a bit of the more progressive side of things. By that we are talking the proper good seventies classic stuff of Yes and Genesis, Camel and Focus, tempered only with the subtle elegance of Wishbone Ash's 'Argus'.
You know what it's like, you find yourself in a groove that for some reason just won't let you go (especially after the relative frustrations of Skynyrd's latest; there were a few tears spilt into pints over that one, I can tell ya). At least, not until an album of sufficient quality lands in your lap that finally kicks you out of the admittedly comfy rut.
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'Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue' is just such an album. After a fair while listening to the intricate noodlings of our illustrious friends of yore, it was like a bloody big kick up the arse from the righteous boot of God when it landed on the death decks here; such a kick in fact, that it remained on continuous rotation for the rest of the night.
For those who don't know, the band got together in 1996, playing around the north-eastern United States and Canada, opening for the likes of Nashville Pussy, Blonde Redhead and The Demolition Doll Rods. In 2001 Bad Taste Records released a compilation of the band's early recordings, demos, and b-sides entitled, 'I'm Alive And On Fire' leading to a run of albums culminating in this, their sixth.
Danko himself is a top charting Canadian in Europe and is also known as a spoken word artist, magazine columnist and radio host. His list of aliases includes The Mango Kid, Dr Evening and The Brown Panther. This is one busy dude.
And 'Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue'?
At first, it proved an awkward album to pin down. It has that sort of modern punky buzz about it that the skater bands revel in. It has the spiky blues of Them Crooked Vultures and Grady yet there are moments of Green Day/Foo Fighter pop laced with some great Lizzyesque dual guitar work and more besides. It certainly caused some serious head scratching until it suddenly twigged what the album's certain something was.
'Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue' is so chock full of great tunes it is difficult to know where to start but try 'Wear Me Down', a great big Zepp stomper that pisses all over anything that appeared on Kingdom Come's debut. 'Believe In God' with its gospel intro kicks into a Kings Of The Sun style straight-down-yer-throat full throttle rock n' roller and the full tilt 'Terrified', 'Always Away', 'I Don't Care', 'Just A Beautiful Day' and 'The Masochist' clatter along as if they are chasing the Devil from the neighbourhood just to see the fucker run.
It's edgy, just managing to stay out of the up-its-own-arse minefield of alt; it's too boogified and canny for that. There are some heller big Metal stompers on here too, 'Legs', 'Get Up' and 'Don't Do This' for instance and 'Type Of Girl' pumps up the sort of pop rock we used to get showered with in the eighties with a nice line on the Lizzy duelling guitar groove thrown in to give it that extra bit of class.
The production, by long time Danko compadre Matt DeMatteo and mixed by Mike Fraser (whose credentials include the likes of 'DC and Aerosmith, which explains a lot) matches the songs. The album sounds live and full of vigour, big and gritty, spitting a fuck you attitude that rattles out of yer speaks to bait the neighbours with a grin on its face and its dick in its hand.
Though 'Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue' occasionally tips its hat at the topics of politics and religion, the reality is it is a ragged arsed road album that just wants to eat up the miles to the next opportunity to laugh in someone's face.
Oh, and that certain something? Try mixing the grit of those classic tough Australian outfits of years gone by with Yankee punk savvy and a good pinch of the Groundhogs and you'll not be far off the mark. Now how fucking cool is that? Needless to say, the prog stuff has been stowed back in the racks and the bar is now back in its more familiar rock n' roll biker mode.
Don't fuck about, just get 'Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue' and look sharpish about it. So c'mon, let's do this!