posted on 10/2007 By:
“Rock’n’roll starts between the legs and goes through the heart, then to the head. As long as it does those three things, it’s a great rock song.”
~ John Cougar Mellencamp
Obviously the guy could stand to practice what he bloody preaches a bit more (Chevy commercials? Are you shittin’ me? That’s about as rock’n’roll as a Hummel Angel collection), but I think the ol’ Cougar hit the nail on the head with the above quote. You want people to remember your rock? Write ballsy music that comes directly from the heart and really sticks itself inside a listener’s head. That’s the formula for big-time rock’n’roll success. And that’s exactly why I still find myself singing tunes off early recordings from bands such as The Ramones, Uriah Heep, Grand Funk, Deep Purple, MC5, Billy Squire, Thin Lizzy, Queen -- honestly, the list could go on and on. All these artists (and many more from the early/mid 70’s) really seemed to have the necessary blueprint figured out, but they were particularly masterful in terms of the last element in the equation: crafting tunes that manage to stick in your head for days…and years. How? The exalted hook, ladies and gentlemen. The same holy hook that pops “The Stroke” into your head when you see a woman buy a huge zucchini in the grocery store. The same almighty hook that sprouts “Stone Cold Crazy” into your dome when you see some kook having an everyday conversation with an old tin can on a park bench. The “rock, rock, rock, rock, rock’n’roll high school. Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock’n’roll high school. Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock’n’roll high school!”
And sadly, that’s exactly what’s missing from the Gentlemans Pistols self-titled debut. This is a well-produced, competently played, finely packaged retro-rock’n’roll record in the vein of Sir Lord Baltimore, Deep Purple, MC5, et al, and it’s got more than its share of little scorchin’ leads, scootin’ riffs, and a vocalist that delivers with a deep, smooth confidence, but it’s lacking the big hooks necessary to make it a rock record that really sticks into the ol’ gray matter. These are essentially tunes that sound as if they’d transfer much more convincingly when blasted forth from a stage, but on record they only manage to hit occasionally -- the slower, bluesier jam of “Heavy Petting”; the quick charge of the shortest song, “Vivid Wonder”; and the harder edged highlight of the record, “Widow Maker” -- the rest of the record simply breezes by fairly routinely.
In the band’s defense, this is their first record, so it’s probably rather assholish of me to immediately stack it against the rock heavyweights of yore it’s obviously paying homage to, but the bottom line is this: 2007 has seen some immense titles hit the streets that are fighting for your hard-earned cash, and this record is simply not something I’d consider to be essential. If you’re looking for a break from the extreme and you’ve got a taste for something more retro-rock oriented, your money would be much better spent on the new Witchcraft record. Gentlemans Pistols needs a bit more time to develop.
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