Thunder – ‘Rip It Up’ (earMUSIC) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Mark Ashby   
Tuesday, 24 January 2017 04:30

Thunder - Rip It Up artworkTwenty-seven years into their careers, most bands would be sitting back and resting on their laurels, not messing with the formula, but sticking with the tried and tested, what works for them and for their fans… But, Thunder aren’t “most bands” – and what works for them and their fans is how Messrs Danny Bowes, Luke Morley, Ben Matthews, Chris Childs and 'Harry' James constantly stretch themselves musically, lyrically and creatively.

 

Their last album, the truly magnificent ‘Wonder Days’ (heck, it was my pick for ‘Album Of The Year’ in 2015), set a high standard, showing the guys had taken their time to craft their “comeback” (it was their first studio release since their reformation six years earlier). Unlike most of their contemporaries from the late 80s/early 90s, they weren’t prepared to live off their legacy, but instead prove that they were still very much a fresh, vibrant and above all relevant rock n roll force to be reckoned with. Now, almost two years later to the very day, they come storming back with their 11th album: one that most definitely lives up to its title, proving that Thunder still most definitely not only ‘Rip It Up’ but should make young pretenders such as Rival Sons not just doffing their homburgs on the way out the stage door but dropping their guitars into the nearest charity shop on the long walk home.

 

Opener ‘No Gets Out Alive’ thumps out of URHQ’s speakers with the impressive and forceful freshness of a ‘Back Street Symphony’ or ‘Laughing On Judgement Day’ era offering, it’s thick riff and layered harmony giving way to Bowes’ opening declaration of “I’m not gonna live forever/But that’s alright with me”, his voice rich and mellifluous, filled with energy and vigour, before he adds that “the whole wide world is there for you to see”… and indeed it is as the songs melody bounces and swirls around you before, Morley eases back it a shade on the solo and let’s rip once more.

 

Things get down and dirty on the title track, which has a thumping rhythm that stomps its way through you with the effectiveness of a battalion of orcs on their way to Helm’s Deep: it’s huge and stonking. OK, apart from psychedelic bridge section, Bowes’ vocal is maybe a bit low in the mix, but that adds to the pummelling effect of this ripper. ‘She Likes The Cocaine’ is sleazier than a strip club dressing room, the main riff grunting and growling while beautiful little motifs inject themselves in between the bars. The song is given a beautifully apposite and contrary gospel feel by the background wails of the wonderful Lynne Jackaman.

 

Thunder have always done great ballads, and they ease off the pedal for the first time with ‘Right From The Start’, Bowes’ vocal initially mournful and then joyous over the acoustic motif, before Childs’ bass kicks in to add the appropriate density, and then James’ carefully chosen percussion adds an extra layer as the song builds and then ebbs back again. ‘Shakedown’ is arguably the first track to show Thunder pushing the boundaries while remaining true to their roots, kicking off with a beautiful funk vibe that just gets your hips swaying of their own volition before bringing in a sweet little blues motif which transforms into a heavy-ass groove filled to the roof with soul. It’s an experimental road followed a bit later on, as ‘In Another Life’ has a totally unexpected underpinning reggae vibe; to be honest, I don’t really know where it comes from, in between Childs’ huge bass rumble, the sweetly picked guitar and Bowes’ emotive vocal: perhaps it’s the organ that swells and brags in the background, but there’s just something that evokes the feeling of lying on a sun-kissed Caribbean beach sipping cocktails, watching the hotties go by and wondering about what might have been if your life path had taken a different direction… and that guitar solo is so brief it just leaves your heart begging for one more note…

 

 

In between, ‘Heartbreak Hurricane’ is classic Thunder: a mixture of an acoustic-led blues and pounding kick ass rock n roll: again, Bowes is slightly low in the mix (in my opinion, to the detriment of both the song and his performance on this occasion) but the songs peaks and troughs, use of levity and heaviness promise that, if they perform it live on the forthcoming tour, it will quickly become a fan favourite, getting hands waving and heads banging equal measure. The album enters its last quarter with the whump whump whump of ‘The Chosen One’: another foot-stomping bass-led rhythm overtopped with a superb fist-raising staccato guitar riff, which in turn gives away to the winding main melody, complimented by Bowes’ soaring (yet, as ever, understated – the guy knows how to let rip yet hold back at the same time) and a honky-tonk piano backdrop.

 

‘The Enemy Within’ is brash and challenging, once again, like the opening few tracks, evoking the enthusiasm of their early work – and even has the poppy edge of their previous Terraplane incarnation – yet sounding suitably mature and exuding the confidence of a band who, 11 albums into their career, are just happy producing the great music that they know they can create and which they just hope their fans will love as much as they do: and, I tell you, what, as a fan… I for one fucking love it! ‘Tumbling Down’ follows in the same footsteps, acidic in the edge on both the guitars and vocals, it’s one of those arena-filling songs that contains enough snarl to ensure that the passion of its creators shines through but enough swagger to get audiences out of their seats and dancing in the aisles… hell, have you any idea how hard it is to type while swirling your missus ‘round the desk?

 

Closer ‘There’s Always A Loser’ is ironically titled: kicking off with a snappy percussive beat from James and a single chord piano, Bowes’ hum naturally evolves into a dark and dense paean to the balance of life, of standing up for that in which you believe and to putting your all into achieving all that you can do, while at the same time remembering that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. But, I said the title is ironic: because, while Thunder continue to produce songs, and albums, as great as this, then there are no losers… well, maybe just those who don’t appreciate great fucking rock ‘n’f’n’ roll!

 

As the first of the “old guard” of British hard rock bands to have released an album this year, Thunder once again have set the bar so high that Charles Austin would have difficulty clearing it! It’s an album which has been on almost constant repeat at URHQ since it landed on our desk a month ago, and it probably will remain on the top of playlist right up until it comes time to cast our votes for the ‘Album Of The Year’ in about 50 weeks or so…

 

‘Rip It Up’ is released on 10 February.

 

Thunder tour the UK in March.  Dates are as follows:

 

Thunder tour flyer

 

Prior to the tour, Thunder will do a series of instore acoustic performances and signing sessions at HMV stores:

 

Friday 10 February - Oxford Street, London (sold out)
Monday 13 February - Cardiff
Tuesday 14 February - Leeds
Wednesday 15 February - Glasgow
Thursday 16 February - Manchester

 

All events will take place at 5:30pm, except London which will be at 6pm. Ticket details HERE.

 

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