NOVEMBER ALBUM OF THE MONTH
Confidence. We all need it at this moment in time – and this is the autumn album release that brings it.
Having been through a seismic time of suffering and loss, there is a time and place for music that captures the dark days but, in truth, as we re-emergence from lockdown what we all need are reasons to believe – we need to re-find our confidence. Confidence to return to the office, confidence to return to music venues, confidence to turn the socials off and do real again. ‘Even Up The Score’ is possibly the most protracted record Wayward Sons have made but it is also their most confident. And confidence is what we need from the musicians we listen to – reasons to believe, reasons to rebuild and recover.
As an observer of the rising rock scene, my concern at times is that the marketing over-takes the actual music. The quest for affirmation through likes and shares; the social media broadcasts that are intended to build brands, the posts that boast about huge streaming numbers as record shops continue to close. ‘Even Up The Score’ is a bold and emphatic reminder that nothing is more important than the art of good song writing. Every song on this album has a strong start, middle and end; the collection evokes a reaction (whether you like rock or not) and the music is direct and to-the-point – with only one track running over four minutes. Here is the sound of full-blooded rock n roll, crafted with care, delivered with conviction and narrated with social relevance. This music is bursting with life and is the antidote to the limited, acoustic world of lockdown. With ‘Even Up The Score’ we return to the vibrant rock n roll we missed and were deprived of for endless months of lockdown.
In some ways, this album is a natural continuation from where the band left off with their last release ‘The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be’ – it’s like Wayward Sons ‘A Day at the Races’ to their ‘A Night At the Opera.’ And given that many of the songs on this album were originally conceived in the writing sessions for the previous album, the two albums do feel like close relatives.
But dig a bit deeper and the tone is actually very different. ‘Truth’ – which also bagged album of the month – felt like a themed story, which documented Toby’s anger at the world. This new album feels more accessible and, whilst also vibrant, the tone is distinctly more upbeat, perhaps a little lighter. From the song titles, the socio-political narrative is still there but the mood is more hopeful – more confident.
As we start to rebuild after Covid, there is a pervading sense on this album that things will get better; it is perhaps a time for reflection and to review the need to change.
And this hope has a real basis. Toby was one of the hardest working musicians during lockdown. As many artists reflected on missing concerts, Toby adapted and got on with it. From one lockdown kitchen to another, I followed Toby’s busking sessions, his solo releases, his covers. He headlined the Spirit of Wildfire 3 radio festival I organised back in June 2020 and I clearly remember the vibrant energy that literally exploded from his set. This was the output of a creative that went towards uncertainty and found ways to adapt and create at a time when the world stood still. This context carries through onto this album, which breathes an open mood of defiance to a virus that wanted to destroy the music industry. The defiance isn’t shown in anger but through the positive, affirmative belief in the art – the precision of the songs, their punch, their decisiveness and their life.
For this review, I’m not going to write a commentary on each track. The release works best as a collection of songs, an album to enjoy in full during one sitting, rather than picking individual tracks from a playlist. The single releases are not the standouts, the quality is consistent throughout. My picks from the album would probably be ‘Faith in Fools’ or the closer ‘This Party’s Over.’
It’s an accessible collection of songs. What impresses is the craft and arrangement behind them. We have all had more time to go back and listen to those benchmark albums during lockdown and I can feel little references to early Bowie and Queen in some of the songs and also the genesis of what made the best Little Angels songs great. We’ve all had time to reflect and I sense that Toby has had time to consolidate his own thinking on what makes great songs. I’m not saying this album is better than the previous two Wayward Sons albums, but the songs are sharper and more defined. It feels like there are very few wasted notes – and there’s no filler.
In recent months, I have spent time thinking what ‘next’ might look like in rock. I’ve been inspired by bands like Badflower who are promising to rewrite the rule book in the way they cast aside rock conventions, push new boundaries and create music that young people relate to (and that some of us oldies may find uncomfortable, which is creatively a good thing). And whilst this is exciting, what this Wayward Sons album reminds us is that it isn’t actually about new rock or old rock (or whatever sub-genre names people come up with); the simple truth is that music is all about good songs – always has been, always will be. Any young rock band dreaming of making it, turn off your socials, sit down and listen to the new Wayward Sons album – whatever your taste in music, this album is a masterclass on good, confident song writing, and it’s a benchmark for others to follow.
Order a physical copy of ‘Even Up The Score’ at https://eyesoremerch.com/band-tshirts/w/wayward-sons
Toby Jepson – Vocals, Guitars
Sam Wood – Guitars
Nic Wastell – Bass
Philip Martini – Drums and Percussion
Listen to previous Wayward Sons/Toby interviews