Review by Peter Coates
It is sometimes hard to try and set aside the fact that I have been a fan of this band for nearly 35 years and listen to a new record with an objective viewpoint – from club shows as Terraplane, and then the arena support slots when they were the next great hope of British Rock, through to the farewell show in 1999, and the next goodbye in 2009, and the triumphant UK tour in 2015. I haven’t loved everything they’ve released, but I do like most of it! The last album, Wonder Days, was a mighty return to their absolute best, so following that up was always going to be a challenge.
What I believe is the band’s official 11th studio album Rip It Up has now been released, and it is very definitely a Thunder record. The catchy hooks, the bluesy riffs, and the cocky slightly swaggering lyrics are all there, with all of the hallmarks of some quality songwriting from the primary composer, guitarist Luke Morley.
The record opens with a familiar riff and rhythm in No One Gets Out Alive which has all the components of a rip-roaring Thunder classic, with Danny Bowes snarling the lyrics over the intricate guitars, and crunching bass and drums that kick the whole thing along. The title track Rip It Up pays homage to some 1970s glam rock riff before it kicks into a rollicking blues-rocker with a chorus that does what the song says!
She Loves The Cocaine is another Thunder trademark number, slightly sleazy, and featuring some epic backing vocals over the soaring keyboards, and some voice-box guitar licks, which all in all delivers another cracking party rock song. Danny and Luke then combine for the acoustic intro to Right From The Start, with one of the best vocal performances I can remember from the main man. This one builds through a mellow guitar solo, with gentle piano from Ben Mathews, before the main solo delivers something special as it cruises on through to the end.
Cowbell, woodblocks and a deal more swagger opens up Shakedown with a stripped-down verse, before the dirty grind of the riff kicks in under the chorus which slams you against the bar and insists that you drop a Tequila or two and just dance! I can hear some potential crowd participation in this one live! Heartbreak Hurricane has one of those infectious off-beat Thunder riffs before the pounding tom toms of ‘Harry’ James underpin the main melody and give the whole song its identity. In Another Life starts off like Black Velvet with Chris Child’s rumbling bass line, with some electric piano giving support to another powerful vocal performance from Danny.
The next three songs are the pick for me after 3 or 4 listens, with The Chosen One opening up with honky-tonk piano and a storming guitar riff to a song that has all the recognisable Thunder components, and will be a cracking live number, including a classy middle-eight broken riff and guitar solo. The drums are the key to The Enemy Inside bringing a slightly swinging beat to the cranking guitar, and some sneering vocals, combined with some effective backing vocals and harmonies. Tumbling Down has something of a feel of The Who to the opening chords, before yet another insistent guitar line drives the song through to the chorus, and just gets under your skin as the song progresses, and will not let up.
The final track on the record There Is Always A Loser has an almost poppy feel to the drums and piano that open it up, with another emotive bluesy vocal performance that leads through to the band kicking in with power, and a lightning solo, that sees the drums become more like Bonham than Hanson and lead the song to its close.
The fantastic thing about this new album is that Australia gets the first chance to hear any of these songs live in a full electric set, so if you want to experience this at first hand, and catch one of the best live shows you will ever see – make sure you get to one of the shows in March.
March 7 th Factory Theatre, Sydney
March 8 th The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
March 10 th The Triffid, Brisbane
March 11th The Capitol, Perth
1 No One Gets Out Alive
2 Rip It Up
3 She Likes The Cocaine
4 Right From The Start
6 Heartbreak Hurricane
7 In Another Life
8 The Chosen One
9 The Enemy Inside
10 Tumbling Down
11 There’s Always A Loser