Adrian Grainger has been a busy boy this year, shooting off to cover some top notch gigs, only recently, he was at Wembley for the Bryan Adams 30th Anniversary Tour of 'Reckless' and a week before that, he was enjoying the output of Big Country when they hit Bristol.
I asked him to put together a top 10 for a feature on the site, he said he'd give it a go and here my friends are his choices....
10 – Primus – Primus and The Chocolate Factory
The return of the classic Primus line-up.
Primus release their second album since reforming and this one got Primus fans all around the world excited as the news came out that Tim “Herb” Alexander was returning to the drum stool. This release is an alternative imagining of the sound track to the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the one starring Gene Wilder). It was – as ever – superbly played and very quirky. Problem was that it didn’t really work. Herb seemed to be more of a percussionist than a drummer and there weren’t really that many “rock” songs. A disappointment considering how good this band can be – but the hope is that there is better to come – they are the sort of band that could still have their best work in front of them. That said – still good enough to make my top 10 but if you told me Primus were releasing an album, I’d normal expect it to be in or near the top 3.
Candy Man / Any of the 4 “Oompa” songs / Farewell Wonkites
9 – Little Matador – Little Matador
Side project for Snow Patrol guitarist
Little Matador is a super group of sorts but you would be well acquainted to the music scene to have heard of many of the members of this band, other than Nathan Connolly who plays guitar for Snow Patrol. This album is nothing like his day job – Connolly for example is the lead singer here and there is enough grit under their collective fingernails for you to forget all about “Chasing Cars”. This is an album that deserves to be played loud and would sound fantastic in a live setting. There are touches of Queens of the Stone Age and a tad of the heavier end of The Arctic Monkeys and this is a promising debut – hopefully it’s not their only album.
Stitch yourself Up / Reasons / Gimme All You Got
8 - Steel Panther - All You Can Eat
3rd album from Hair Metal spoofers.
Most 40 something rockers (I definitely fall into this category) grew up listening to the likes of Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Poison, Van Halen and Motley Crue among others so how does a band that makes a point of lampooning those bands and including some VERY adult humour get to make a career out of being a modern day Spinal Tap? The reason is that their take on this style of music is so good that you can tell they are fans themselves. It's well played (a couple of members of SP used to be in a Van Halen tribute act) and the tunes are absolutely brilliant. The music is so good that the adult nature of their lyrics almost detracts from it but what can you do nowadays - they probably wouldn't have stood out enough from the crowd without the smutty jokes?
Gang Bang At The Old Folks Home / Glory Hole / If I Was The King
7 – AC/DC – Rock Or Bust
1st album without one of the Young brothers. Normal service continues.
AC/DC have been a bastion of “straight ahead, balls to the wall rock” for over 40 years now. They never deviate from their standard bar room boogie brand of heavy rock with a defiant “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it attitude” but with this album, there were whispers that all wasn’t well with rhythm guitarist, Malcolm Young. It transpired that he is sadly suffering from dementia and that his guitar duties were now being handled by his nephew Stevie. Rock Or Bust doesn’t deviate from the usual formula and as such is everything that an AC/DC devotee would want but this album doesn’t seem to have the punch of its predecessor “Black Ice”. Brian Johnston sounds in fine voice and Angus Young’s solos are as blistering as ever but the songs seem to lack a little spark. It’s a decent enough album but not a contender for the “best album since Back In Black” award that all of their post BIB works seem to vie for. Everyone knows that would go to the follow-up (For Those About To Rock) anyway…….
Rock or Bust / Play Ball / Miss Adventure
6 – Brimstone – Mannsverk
Norwegian Prog Metal – surprisingly good actually!
An album that definitely has its eyes on the past. 8 songs, usually on the prog side of “long”: Superbly written and brilliantly played this album warrants repeated listenings. Tricky time signatures, fuzzy bass guitar, some strange choices of instrumentation and some really wacky song titles (although to be fair this could be the language barrier at work here) don’t detract at all from the listening experience. All that’s good about Prog Rock.
A Norwegian Requiem / Voodoo / Sjo & Land
5 - The Rifles – None The Wiser
4th album from Britpop heroes favourite band – Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher are said to be fans.
10 (or 11!!) punchy songs, mostly around the 3 – 4 minute mark and chock full of catchy guitar riffs, this is a totally enjoyable album from a band I’d not heard of before being asked to review this earlier in the year. That this isn’t the sort of thing that I would normally choose to listen to, proves the quality of the songs on offer here. This is so good that I’m going to add them to my (already very long) list of bands to look into further. With stuff this good, they would go down superbly at a festivals and I’ve even forgiven them for the hidden track at the end of the album – almost………
Minute Mile / Heebie Jeebies / Under and Over
4 - Tesla – Simplicity
Veteran American hard rockers 9th Studio album finds them in great form.
Formed back in the 80s and springing to wider attention via support slots on Def Leppard’s marathon trek around the world promoting the Hysteria album, Tesla have consistently made really good hard rock records – selling over 14 million in the process - and Simplicity is no different. 14 tracks of quality that many better known bands would be proud to put their name to, the Sacremento based 5 piece consistently hit the mark with this effort. Tesla are the sort of no frills rock band that American radio loves and British rock fans can’t understand why they aren’t bigger over here. A buried treasure for those that love their rock.
Honestly / Flip Side! / Burnout To Fade
3 - Adrenaline Mob – Men of Honor
2nd album for Mike Portnoy’s post Dream Theater band. Now without Mike Portnoy…….(!)
The first album by Adrenaline Mob garnered a fair bit of coverage in the rock and metal press due to the presence of the above mentioned star drummer but the test was always going to be the second album. The first album (Omerta) was stuffed full of crunching metal riffs, screamed vocals, brilliant solos and generally great songs, making it one of the finest metal albums in recent years. The big surprise was the beautifully restrained performance of Portnoy who was known for his drumming pyrotechnics but delivered a metal performance that complimented the music perfectly without being overly showy. The follow up is no different without him (replaced by A.J. Pero - the drummer from Twisted Sister) and some might argue it’s even better than the first album, this band definitely has a future – here’s to hoping for many more albums from them.
Mob is Back / Dearly Departed / House Of Lies
2 - Circa Zero – Circus Hero
Andy Summers proving yet again, that he is a more than effective foil for a front man with plenty of ideas.
Andy Summers is best known for his work in The Police but over the years, he’s released many acclaimed (but commercially ignored) albums. His latest album sees him team up with Rob Giles from The Rescues – who handles pretty much everything but the guitars. Over 13 tracks, the songwriting (shared between the two) is consistently strong and is a sort of return to the style of music which brought Summers to global attention. That the first “Police” influenced song doesn’t appear until the 4th track (Say Goodnight) is very commendable. Also, the riff to Whenever You Hear The Rain is…let’s say “reminiscent” of “Every Breath You Take” but those small gripes aside, this is a brilliant album. Summers is back writing in the genre which clearly suits him and his experience means that these songs are exceptionally well crafted. An absolute treat.
Levitation / The Story Ends Here / Gamma Ray / Light The Fuse and Run / Hot Camel
1 – Rancid – Honor Is All We Know
Punk veterans deliver the goods yet again.
Rancid released their 8th (and shortest) studio album and it was an absolute belter. They’re never going to be innovative – you’re not going to see them veering off into acid trance – but you know exactly what you’re going to get: An album full of punk rock, dodgy vocals, the odd reggae song and several shouts of “let’s go” and “Oi! Oi! Oi!”. Honor Is All We Know is no exception to this. Rancid deliver yet again and the songs, whilst having a punk edge have hummable tunes. The ska/reggae numbers are danceable and this is definitely one of their better albums. Live they are a bundle of energy and I’m really hoping they tour the UK in support of this album.
At just under 33 minutes – all of it.
There you go folks, that's it for another year, same again in December 2015....
Reviews by Adrian Grainger