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The Black Keys

Dropout Boogie

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THE BLACK KEYS – DROPOUT BOOGIE – ALBUM REVIEW

Flashback almost 10 years ago now and the already well established The Black Keys were on the cusp of real superstardom after the incredible success of ‘El Camino’. Then the disruption began.

Whilst touring follow up album, ‘Turn Blue’, drummer Patrick Carney dislocated his shoulder and several shows were cancelled. Once that tour concluded the band went on an extended hiatus, returning in 2019 with ‘Let’s Rock’ to somewhat of a whimper.

A covers album followed last year, and any momentum the band still had seemed to dissipate. Neither, ‘Let’s Rock’ or ‘Delta Kream’ were bad albums, but neither lived up to the high standards and expectations of the band.

On now to March this year and a fantastic single, ‘Wild Child’ peaked interest again. Could The Black Keys rediscover the magic that established them as one of the biggest and best live bands rock bands on the planet?

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The Black Keys – ‘Wild Child’

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Well, here we are in May 2022 and we now have their eleventh studio album, ‘Dropout Boogie’, and thankfully that special touch seems to have returned. ‘Wild Child’ and fellow single, ‘It Ain’t Over’ open the album superbly and remind fans just why they fell in love with the band.

Yes, this truly is a clichéd return to form for The Black Keys, who have seemingly benefitted from returning to basics. This is a simple yet effective hard rock stomp capturing the elements of blues and garage rock that helped define their sound.

Billy F Gibbons featuring track, ‘Good Love’ is another highlight, but really there isn’t a bad song on the album. Carney and Dan Auerbach have their synchronicity back, and fans have The Black Keys back on top form.

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Album Reviews

Puppy

Pure Evil

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PUPPY – PURE EVIL – ALBUM REVIEW

London rockers Puppy offered great promise on their debut album, ‘The Goat’, back in 2019. Now the three-piece return with sophomore offering, ‘Pure Evil’, so how does this album hold up against its predecessor?

Well, from the very beginning the bands trademark sound remains intact as they produce a unique crossover of grunge and metal with a pop bow on top. Intro ‘Shining Star’ leads into single ‘The Kiss’ as the album very much picks up where ‘The Goat’ left off.

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Puppy – ‘The Kiss’

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That’s certainly not to say that there isn’t progress made on ‘Pure Evil’. Somehow the riffs feel meatier yet the melodies sound poppier as the band stretch the differing ends of their rock and roll rainbow.

In doing so the end result may well be a pot of gold. Well perhaps not literal gold, but definitely musical gold. The likes of ‘My Offer’ and ‘…And Watched It Glow’ show that Puppy maintain their power to craft strong singles; but it’s the overall quality on show that cements the band as one of the finest purveyors of new rock music.

As the album comes towards a close, the band deliver more examples of the maturity in sound reached since their debut. ‘Angel’, ‘Shame’ and ‘Glacial’ give ‘Pure Evil’ a stunning ending and leave you ready to hit play again.

Puppy have managed to back up their fantastic debut with another album packed full of sublime alt rock that further establishes the band as amongst the best young rock bands around.

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Album Reviews

Fozzy

Boombox

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FOZZY – BOOMBOX – ALBUM REVIEW

The career of Fozzy is a very unique one, but the trajectory of the band both in terms of quality and professional growth is simple. The group’s career progression has been driven by the continued advancement in quality of their musical output.

2017’s ‘Judas’ took the band to new heights, with major thanks to the success of the title track. Now five years on the band are back with their eighth studio album, ‘Boombox’, and looking to maintain that positive ascent.

The album starts well with the singles ‘Sane’, ‘I Still Burn’ and ‘Purifier’. These tracks had already given a strong inclination of what to expect from the album as a whole, and they provide a fine opening run for listeners.

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Fozzy – ‘Sane’

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Over the past 20+ years Fozzy albums have transformed from all covers, to a mix of covers and originals, to originals with a couple of standout tracks, to finally in recent years fully developed pieces of work.

‘Boombox’ continues this trend, and flows well with the bands signature sound taking centre stage with a few ebbs and flows mixed in to keep things interesting. ‘Army of One’ and ‘Ugly On The Inside’ particularly add something a little different into the mix.

Speaking of adding surprises into the mix, the band continues to throw in occasional cover versions and ‘Boombox’ features a surprisingly fun version of ‘Relax’ from Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Fozzy have no doubt proven many doubters wrong over the years, and thankfully for their fans there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. Eight albums in and the band feel like they have reached the peak of their powers, although you wouldn’t put it past them to keep on getting better.

On ‘Boombox’ the band show again that the likes of single ‘Nowhere To Run’ are no longer outlying standouts but they are now the normal standard for Fozzy.

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Halestorm

Back From The Dead

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HALESTORM – BACK FROM THE DEAD – ALBUM REVIEW

Halestorm sing “…In my redemption, I’m my own redemption…” on their new track, ‘My Redemption’.

The band may not be in need of redemption but their upwards trajectory has appeared to be stalling recently. Let’s not talk about flattening curves however as we’ve heard enough of that over the past two years! But certainly momentum has been slowing for the band.

The band has built a solid and very dedicated fanbase over the past decade or so, but have they hit their peak? Well, they certainly never died, but with their fifth studio album, the band are ‘Back From The Dead’ as it were!

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Halestorm – ‘Back From The Dead’

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Yes, living up to the name of the album, new life now breathes through the band as they deliver some of their best work to date.

The album starts out strong with the title track, ‘Wicked Ways’ and ‘Strange Girl’; and the quality never really drops. Whether rocking hard on the likes of ‘The Steeple’ or captivating on ballads such as ‘Terrible Things’ or album closer ‘Raise Your Horns’, this is Halestorm on top form.

It has obviously been an appalling couple of years and many bands have struggled or seen their momentum hit during this time, but with ‘Back From The Dead’, you feel that Halestorm have caught the ball rather than dropping it!

The band will be returning to the UK for an Arena tour with Alter Bridge this December and you feel , with the reset button pushed, that the band are ready to live up to their potential and sit atop the throne sooner rather than later.

Rock most definitely isn’t dead (sorry Gene), and neither are Halestorm!

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Bloc Party

Alpha Games

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BLOC PARTY – ALPHA GAMES – ALBUM REVIEW

It has been 6 years since Bloc Party released their last album, 2016’s ‘Hymns’. Since then solo projects, anniversary tours, pandemics and life in general have taken over, but now they are back with their sixth studio album, ‘Alpha Games’.

The group of course shot to prominence with debut album, ‘Silent Alarm’ back in 2005 and their career took them into huge venues across the world. Recent years however haven’t seen a great deal of activity from the band, with a couple of line-up changes also occurring.

It’s hard now to take stock of where the band fit into the musical landscape, are they are nostalgia act, or a creative entity still? Are they full time or part time? What direction are they heading musically?

Well, the fact we are discussing a new album demonstrates that the band still appears a viable commodity. This is great news as the band always did stand out from the crowded indie scene of the so called noughties.

Predecessor ‘Hymns’ however received rather mixed reviews, so how will ‘Alpha Games’ fare and how will it position the band moving forward?

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Bloc Party – ‘Traps’

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There are lots of questions here, but as soon as the album starts you sense the Bloc Party of old. Not in a rehash, cash in way but instead in the innovative and sonically diverse way that helped make them unique in the first place.

Opening duo ‘Day Drinker’ and ‘Traps’ set the standard early and the rest of the album manages to hold that level with only one or two slight lulls. There is a good mix of faster and slower numbers and the album flows pretty well with little drag.

This is a decent Bloc Party album that is well worth a listen, but it doesn’t really answer all the questions. Whilst this isn’t a lazy effort by any stretch of the imagination it isn’t groundbreaking either. It almost feels like the band hitting the reset button after a period of meandering change. Where they go next will be interesting.

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Rammstein

Zeit

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An unplanned consequence of the forced downtime of the past couple of years, ‘Zeit’, is only the eighth album in the nearly thirty years of Rammstein. That means that these days there is a real sense of occasion when they do release anything.

The anticipation started building upon the release of the title track towards the start of March, and built to a crescendo with the debut of latest single ‘Zick Zack’ at the beginning of this month. ‘Zick Zack’ particularly promised full on Rammstein insanity both musically and with its absurd video.

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Rammstein – ‘Zick Zack’

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Now the album is here and it’s once again time to get lost in the lunacy of this incredible band. ‘Armee der Tristen’ and the title track set the tone for what’s to come. This isn’t the heaviest album musically compared to previous works, but it harnesses the various elements that make up the band’s sound well.

I guess you could say that this is what you could expect an easy listening album to be like when done by these metal icons. There aren’t any bad tracks here but perhaps not any that really jump out of the pack either.

From start to finish this is a very enjoyable album that is a nice addition to the band’s back catalogue, although I’d hazard a guess that it won’t trouble the top of any best Rammstein album lists; that being more of a compliment to their previous work than any kind of jab at ‘Zeit’.

For the past decade Rammstein have been mainly a live act, so it’s a pleasant surprise to receive another album so soon after their untitled 2019 album. Soon though the band will be returning to the stage and it will be interesting to see how many ‘Zeit’ songs will feature in the set list moving forward. ‘Zick Zack’ could be lots of fun and I’m sure other songs could grow in the live setting also.

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Bowling For Soup

Pop Drunk Snot Bread

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BOWLING FOR SOUP – POP DRUNK SNOT BREAD – ALBUM REVIEW

👀 Bowling For Soup have a new album out!

So, what are you expecting from it? With 11 albums and nearing 30 years together as a band, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody what the band are offering on ‘Pop Drunk Snot Bread’.

The band has long established themselves as the foremost purveyors of fabulous pop-punk and this album is exactly what you’d want it to be. This record is packed with those catchy, sing-a-long songs that the band has such an abundance of in their back catalogue.

The danger facing any band at this point in their career is that the quality dips and they become a parody of themselves. Well, Bowling For Soup have kind of always been a parody of themselves anyway which is perhaps why they have such longevity.

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Bowling For Soup – ‘I Wanna Be Brad Pitt’

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The dip in quality has yet to arrive and this album is full of songs likely to become engrained fan favourites such as ‘I Wanna Be Brad Pitt’, ‘Getting Old Sucks (But Everybody’s Doing It)’ and ‘Alexa Bliss’.

On opening track ‘Greatest Of All Time’, Jared Reddick sings “…Never about competition, or god damn chart position, just being us we never cared…”, and that perfectly sums up this album. It isn’t the fresh new fad, it is unlikely to take the band to new heights, but, it’s fun, enjoyable and is Bowling For Soup just being themselves!

The same song also offers the line “…We only want to make you smile, maybe sing along and forget about the bad stuff…”; mission achieved, and in this messed up world that’s perhaps exactly what we need.

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Bob Vylan

Bob Vylan Presents The Price Of Life

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BOB VYLAN – BOB VYLAN PRESENTS THE PRICE OF LIFE – ALBUM REVIEW

I often find myself pondering on the state of both the world and the music industry. The climate of each has led to situation whereby musicians are unwilling to take risk. One such risk is the inclusion of politics and contentious issues, something which has almost disappeared from the musical landscape.

Not wanting to alienate any of their fragile audience, musicians tend to play it very safe these days. That is certainly not a allegation that can be thrown at Bob Vylan. The duo have been making a name for themselves over the last couple of years, firstly with their debut album and then with high profile support slots with the likes of Biffy Clyro and The Offspring.

Now feels like a very important time for the band, both from their point of view as they push on with their career, but also for a world crying out for change. Change won’t drive itself, and whilst it should be politicians not musicians pushing for improvement, it certainly never hurt in the past having musicians pushing marginalised debates into mainstream consciousness!

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Bob Vylan – ‘Pretty Songs’

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No punches are pulled on the duos sophomore record, ‘Bob Vylan Presents The Price Of Life’, which in many ways is a statement album. Lyrically pertinent and musically courageous this is the sound of a band taking their spot.

This genre-bending smorgasbord of creativity is a thematically thought provoking masterpiece from an act only just getting started. The likes of singles ‘Pretty Songs’ and ‘GDP’ gave a good indication of what to expect from the album, and the full work doesn’t disappoint.

The future looks bright for Bob Vylan, and whilst one band is unlikely to change the world, hopefully more will be impassioned enough to also wear their heart on their sleeve. Then who knows, maybe the disengaged could become engaged and positive change could happen. One thing for certain though is that this album is brilliant!

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Stone Broken

Revelation

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STONE BROKEN – REVELATION – ALBUM REVIEW

Some bands just have the knack for producing consistently top quality music within their chosen genre. They find their niche and they stick with it. Stone Broken are one such band who already have two solid radio friendly rock albums behind them.

Returning now with their third effort, ‘Revelation’, it is no surprise that they have produced another superb compilation of catchy straight-laced rock music.

The album launches straight into business with pre-release singles ‘Black Sunrise’, ‘The Devil You Know’ and ‘Revelation’. From there onwards there is no ease on the throttle as the band stick with what works.

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Stone Broken – ‘The Devil You Know’

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I’ve often considered Stone Broken from a musical standpoint to be the British version of Nickelback, just without the undue hatred! One criticism of the Canadians has always been their formulated approach to writing big rock hits.

Listening to ‘Revelation’, I guess you could level that accusation here at Stone Broken. This isn’t a diverse record by any stretch of the imagination, but in fairness it doesn’t need to be. There is unlimited choice of music to listen to these days, and acts are often criticised for deviating from their path.

With that said, this is a safe album from Stone Broken. They clearly know what their fans want, they clearly now what they are good at, and, hell, it works! ‘Revelation’ is a very good record which is packed full of catchy rockers that get your head banging and your foot tapping.

As the album concludes with ‘So Damn Easy’ and ‘Gimme Some More’; Stone Broken can sign off from another excellently crafted collection of big time rockers with a sense of pride. They may not be breaking any boundaries but they continue to break down your door with the sound of huge rock hits.

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Fontaines D.C.

Skinty Fia

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FONTAINES D.C. – SKINTY FIA – ALBUM REVIEW

Fontaines D.C. are an interesting enigma in many ways. Bursting out from the blossoming post-punk revival in 2018, the band are often shoehorned in with the other phenomenal acts that have emerged from that scene in recent years. They have however always felt different, special if you will.

The complexities of their musical charm intertwine with the thronging noise of the genre to create a sound of their own that harnesses the poetic prowess of vocalist Grian Chatten.

Following the success of debut album ‘Dogrel’, the group, like many of others, had their momentum derailed by the pandemic. Releasing sophomore record ‘A Hero’s Death’ mid-lockdown it’s hard to truly gauge the impact of the record.

One thing for certain is that the band aren’t hanging around to see, as they now release their third album in three years, ‘Skinty Fia’.

The album is instantly enthralling and recaptures some of the raw grit of ‘Dogrel’ whilst maintaining the polish of ‘A Hero’s Death’ to great juxtaposition. ‘Skinty Fia’ literally does feel like the child of it’s predecessors and delivers everything you’d want from a Fontaines D.C. album.

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Fontaines D.C. – ‘I Love You’

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The driving guitar work cohesively complements the powerful rhythm section to provide that trademark framework from which Chatten is able to deliver his charismatic lyricism. This is perhaps best demonstrated on the stunning ‘I Love You’.

It’s difficult though to really pick out the standout moments on the album due to the sheer quality of the compilation. All ten tracks warrant their inclusion and join together as a singular masterpiece.

‘Skinty Fia’ is exactly the album that Fontaines D.C. needed to release at this point in time and will only cement their reputation and position in the upper reaches of the industry.

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