JUNE ALBUM OF THE MONTH
At the moment, it’s getting harder and harder to pick just one ‘Album of the Month’ to review. In the last few months there has been a run of fine album releases from new and rising bands. As a collective, the material spans every spectrum of guitar music today – classic, modern, aggressive, popular, crossover, blues – and it says something about the important role that new generation bands are playing in giving people new sounds at the time when venues are closed. In this sense, the flow of new recorded music matters more – songs that can grace the airwaves, lift spirits and enliven streaming playlists.
Despite the flurry of new releases, Bad Touch was a clear and emphatic choice for me for June. And for many reasons. The opening three singles garnered interest on my Friday show – and repeat requests from people well beyond the classic rock scene. Interestingly, the album also works across all formats; as standalone radio singles, as a CD that isn’t too long – and especially on vinyl, where there is a clear sense of a side 1 and a side 2 and a visual package that is very much ‘an event’ on white vinyl.
Perhaps above all, ‘Kiss The Sky’ marks a significant evolution relative to the band’s story to date. With three albums already under their belts, it was the debut album ‘Half Way Home’ that was a big hit with us for its rawness, youthful excitement and simplicity. The latest offering presents a band going back to its rock n roll roots and, for me, it better captures on record the natural vibe of Bad Touch. Full of riffs and grooves, as a body of work the music is alive – a performance album in the studio – the sound of a band of brothers who intuitively know how to work together in crafting feel-good tunes that can brighten anyone’s day. Sure, the music is unashamedly laced in the band’s classic influences, but when the music is done well it doesn’t matter. Good music is good music, and in this age of no gigs, ‘Kiss The Sky’ takes you as close as an album can to the excitement of a rock n roll performance without the artificiality of over-production.
Before getting into a track-by-track, I’ll jump straight to track 5, a showstopper for any album. For fans of Bad Touch’s sensational cover of ‘Baby Get it On’ with Mollie Marriott, we have the worthy follow-up on the way – Bad Touch’s cover of ‘I Got The Music In Me’ is another full-tempo rock n roller that packs the wow factor. There is a real art to doing covers well and once again Bad Touch showcase their flair, performance chemistry and, yes, their love for rock n roll with a song I predict will be on the airwaves all summer. The song hits you in the face and it’s impossible not to react to it. For vinyl collectors it’s a reason to also buy a CD version of the album – you’ll wreck your vinyl by doing repeat plays of this song.
With a radio head on, this song also captures a distinct talent that band has – they are building an enviable track record at recording songs that are perfect feel-good radio songs that can stretch beyond the classic genre. ‘Jeans Song’ was grassroots hit for us, ‘99%’ was a song people loved even if they didn’t much like classic rock. The Mollie song is one of the best rock n roll singles of recent years and ‘Skyman’ also drew requests from non-rock listeners. ‘I Got The Music In Me’ is the next chapter, a band that already could release a greatest hits album of hit-single-quality songs that would sustain quality and tempo through the whole album. Not many rising bands can match this in quite the same way, and in recent years this talent for stand-alone radio songs is how I had come to pigeon-hole the band. Which is why ‘Kiss the Sky’ is a significant development: For me, it really marks the band’s evolution as a rounded album band.
‘Come A Little Closer’ opens the album, and within a few minutes I am taken back to the almost exposed rock n roll feel of the debut album. More rock n roll than blatantly Southern Rock. Whilst punchy and confident, it’s also slightly raw and with that it carries a reminder of the simple honestly of the debut album. The opener also sets the mood for the album – the music you’re about to enjoy is fun, totally authentic and it sounds like the album was fun to make. Never has rock n roll’s ability to be fun been more important than in the current times.
‘I Get High’ is next – an early single that enjoyed a 5-week run on our A playlist. A relatively simple song and riff but another example of a band that has really mastered the lost art of writing good radio singles. All three Bad Touch singles from the new album had strong runs on air with us. This kind of ‘full-house’ doesn’t happen often and it’s proven to be a good omen for the album which follows.
My only quibble with this fine album is track 3 ‘Let Go’ which leaves me cold. The slow but heavy-booted pace, for me, makes it a track 8 kind of song – appearing as early as it does it stops the pace of the album which starts so well and picks up again from track 4.
‘Strut’ brings a raw edge that gives the album life and vitality. The cross-play of rhythms and riffs makes this an arresting track and pulls in interest. All the band’s classic rock influences are present but there is a swagger and confidence behind this one that will draw you back for repeat listens.
At this point, a word on the recorded sound. The production is rich and warm. Recorded at the legendary Rockfield Studios, there’s a nice audio personality to the sound on the album. The balance is good and a rich, rugged authentic sound is captured – perfect for vinyl – especially a white one!
After ‘I Got The Music In Me’ brings the house down, side one closes with a cool southern rocker ‘You Can Save Me.’ Midway through the album, there’s already a clear sense that this is the most rounded and mature Bad Touch album to date – but the killer punch is yet to come: Side 2 is actually better than side 1.
For vinyl listeners, ‘Kiss the Sky’ opens side 2. There’s good attack, it’s a decisive song – urgent, tight and dramatic.
‘See You Again’ is perhaps the surprise package on the album – a gentler song that took me straight back to ‘Something Someone’ and this is possibly the band’s best ballad to date. When Bad Touch gets these yearning ballads right, they do so very well and this one is lifted by an orchestral backdrop and a luscious guitar solo. It has a vividly visual, widescreen feel, one has a sense it could be a song from a movie. Set to become a fan fave, I think this song could well become one of those unifying concert anthems – when gigs finally return.
My journey with the band started with a ballad – ‘Something Someone’ – in 2015. It was the first Bad Touch song that had a real run with us – for 10 or 12 weeks. So much so, we were eventually and politely asked to play something else and that was when we moved onto ‘Jeans Song’ – which ran for even longer, years in fact! The point about ballads though is Bad Touch are, in their essence, an up-tempo feel-good rock n roll band, something they do so well and have the ability to make you feel good about life. The ballads when done well show the band’s bandwidth to grow and broaden their creative canvas.
Up next is ‘Before I Die’ which delivers a nice 70s retro funk-rock vibe. A great sense of the band’s natural chemistry and sense of having fun. ‘Read All About It’ follows – very much a Bad Touch staple and solid throughout.
‘Too Much Of A Good Thing’ comes quite late in the album track listing. It’s the band’s latest single and clocked up 4 consecutive weeks on the Great Music Stories weekend A list. Here, the band continues the thread that started with ‘Jeans Song’ with good times rock n roll done well. A song like this doesn’t need to be clever, auto-tuned or over-produced, it just needs to be direct and natural. For young bands that might be tempted to dress singles up or to be too clever, this is the kind of song that reminds us that simple done well is often the best way to connect with people. The song is very natural and captures the essence of a live performance. In these dark days there’s a lot to be said for truth in music. Natural, direct even raw music that captures that sense of performance while we are all deprived of live show experiences.
‘Sun And The Moon’ closes the vinyl album, although the CD runs on with the additional track ‘Something About Your Kiss.’
With ‘Sun And The Moon’ Bad Touch has possibly saved the best til last. A song that builds well with great control. Good light and shade, it’s an opus that conveys that classic Bad Touch recorded sound. Heavy drums, tight base line and nice guitar solos. The sound of a tight unit that works well together – a band that intuitively and naturally knows how to play together.
In the last few years, the classic rock audience has picked up on a grassroots scene that, in truth, has been around for the best part of a decade. Within this scene, Bad Touch has had a steep rise in popularity, they are a band after all who very much live the nostalgic retro-classic sound of yesteryear. There’s a market for this and it is a music tradition to celebrate. That said, Bad Touch’s potential goes beyond this. I have a sense that in the coming years the future of rock will evolve to be different to what happened in the past – what happens in the ‘new reality’ era will possibly be a catalyst for this – as guitar music evolves to appeal to the tastes of new audiences in a world where genre may become less and less relevant. Whatever the future holds, in the new era I think there will be a heavier focus on bands that can write good songs, singles that can chart the airwaves, songs that can create snowballs of momentum on their own musical merit – and albums that capture the excitement of a band performing without too much technical wizardry getting in the way. This is a reason why this album matters in what it says about Bad Touch. Whatever the uncertain future holds, here is a real rock n roll band that can really play, that can produce knock out singles and can record music that makes you feel good. Bad Touch are not taking rock to unchartered new territories but, more than many, they remind us of pure rock n roll’s timeless quality to excite, to inspire and to make you enjoy being alive.
‘Kiss The Sky’ is released by Marshall Records on Friday 19 June
It is available on CD, white vinyl and download.
Pre-order the album at https://badtouchrocks.co.uk
Label: Marshall Records
Publicist: Noble PR
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