May Album Of The Month
With hindsight, it’s no surprise the sunshine returned last Friday. As I aired a new Guy Griffin interview and fired songs from ‘Amazing Disgrace’ across the airwaves, it was clear in an instant that we had our rock n roll soundtrack for the summer.
Ironic too, perhaps, that as The Quireboys prepare to celebrate their official 35th anniversary via a sell-out London show, they have come up with a stellar new album that finally is more than a match for their benchmark ‘A Bit Of What You Fancy.’
The Quireboys’ resurgence has been profound under the Off Yer Rocka label, an era that is fast shaping up to be a new golden age for the band. In the years since my Friday Rock Show listeners crowned The Quireboys as our first ‘Band Of The Year’ back in 2015, the band has issued a string of critically acclaimed albums – ‘Twisted Love’ noted for its eclecticism and ‘White Trash Blues’ winning over a whole new audience with a full-bodied blues masterclass. But now, ‘Amazing Disgrace’ sets a whole new benchmark. The album feels fresh, natural, almost effortless in its creation. It’s the product of a hard-working band that has experience, quality, natural chemistry and, in simple terms, “can bring it.” There’s no pomp or ceremony with this band, no over-hyped album launch-day – the music has been made, it’s seeping out naturally – and, from what I’ve noticed, the human reaction is immediate. Within 24 hours of first playing the album opener ‘Original Black Eyed Son,’ I had a steady stream of calls in from non-rockers for repeat plays. And from the spring shows, it is evident that the hardcore fans are already singing the words to the new songs when they first appear in the set. This is what you call real reaction, the ability of music to touch people, brighten their day and I have a feeling, for many, that this album is going to become a real grower. There’s no obvious stand-out track for radio, I’ve been rotating the tracks each week. This doesn’t happen a lot with new release albums – and it’s a good sign. Eight or nine of the songs could be singles.
The album opens with two signature Quireboys songs, tunes that utterly define who The Quireboys are and what they do. Enhanced with great backing vocals and a horn section ‘Original Black Eyed Son’ – in particular – captures the very essence of the band. For me, this song challenges ‘Mona Lisa Smiled’ and ‘7 O’Clock’ as the new quintessential track for people to listen to if they want to get a feel for the band – and it’s a song that actually better reflects where the band is today.
We then move onto the radio-friendly opening single ‘Seven Deadly Sins’- which to me had a nod to ‘Twisted Love’ – and then the title track which is real a highlight of the album. The song ‘Amazing Disgrace’ feels like a bit of a departure for the band but with the urgency of a runaway train, expressive guitars and rousing chorus lines, I think this may become a firm favourite with fans – and it’s one of those songs that could stand on its own two feet on radio and, potentially, win over a new legion of new fans to the band.
I remember when I interviewed Spike at Ramblin’ Man Fair in 2017, ahead of the band’s knockout blues set, I asked him what the band might do after their ‘White Trash Blues’ album. He chuckled and without hesitation uttered the word “country.” With ‘Eve Of The Summertime’ there’s a trio of country-infused songs on the second half of this new album. ‘Eve Of The Summertime’ feels like a natural song for summer festival season, but ‘Dancing in Paris’ was the song I chose for radio, a heart-warming song with a slight nod to ‘Mona Lisa Smiled.’ In truth, The Quireboys have always had a country influence in their music, their song writing, after all, usually starts with an acoustic guitar. The discerning point here though, is The Quireboys do these songs so well. From songs like ‘Hates to Please’ from ‘Halfpenny Dancer’ to ‘Eve of the Summertime,’ there’s a real heart to these gentler songs from The Quireboys’ archive – songs that often become the keystone of their acoustic sets. On the new album, these songs give a fresh and varied dimension to the new collection of tracks.
‘California Blues’ wouldn’t have been out of place on the ‘Twisted Love’ album, thinking back to the popularity of ‘Breaking Rocks’ – and ‘Feels Like A Long Time’ is an arresting and free Quireboys staple: Simple in construction but given a bit of extra soul through the backing vocals and the fluent guitar flourishes that give the song colour and life. ‘Medusa My Girl’ closes the album as perfectly as it started.
Following previous creative turns to the left and to the right with previous albums – ‘St Cecilia’s’ heavy acoustic vibe, the almost rockabilly sensibility of ‘Torn and Frayed’ from ‘Twisted Love’ and the blues celebration with ‘White Trash Blues’ – with ‘Amazing Disgrace’ The Quireboys return with a masterclass on the signature music they do best – only with this album they have raised the bar on how they’ve done it. The making of the album seemed jinxed at times, with various behind the scenes setbacks – from an equipment burglary to the pledge debacle – but, in some ways, this makes the creative result all the more remarkable. ‘Amazing Disgrace’ is quite possibly the finest, most natural and rounded album the band has made to date.
And special mention must be made in despatches to the band’s label, Off Yer Rocka. Not only did they step in when the pledge issues threatened the album’s fulfilment, but they can take fair credit for the band’s revival in the last decade; an era that has seen a veteran band pushing the boundaries on new material and new creative directions – whilst many of their peers rest on their archives and tour their greatest hits.
As a band, The Quireboys has a work-rate that is impressive for being relatively rare. Whether they are playing major festivals, performing a set to skiers in the Alps, on a cruise ship or performing an acoustic set in a small club, The Quireboys are always working. This shines through in the recent albums, the music is never laboured or contrived – it just flows, and you can feel the musicians have a natural almost telepathic understanding of each other.
‘Amazing Disgrace’ crowns a renaissance for a band that in some respects represents the perfect paradigm of a band in the modern age – they have killer show craft on stage, they have a consistency in producing critical new recordings and they’re nice people, always happy to make time for their fans and supporters. They keep it real. The Quireboys are unapologetic about their music influences and with ‘Amazing Disgrace’ the legacy of a distinctly British blues rock tradition is in very safe hands.
The new album ‘Amazing Disgrace’ is available to order via www.offyerrocka.com or www.amazon.co.uk – available in download, CD and vinyl formats.
Find out more about the band and tour dates at www.quireboys.com
Listen to my past interviews with the band:
FEATURE INTERVIEW: THE QUIREBOYS – HOMEWRECKERS AT 10
FEATURE INTERVIEW: SPIKE ON WHITE TRASH BLUES
FEATURE INTERVIEW: The Quireboys Tribute Show
FEATURE INTERVIEW: SPIKE ON TWISTED LOVE