Maverick - 'Quid Pro Quo' (Massacre Records) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Mark Ashby   
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 04:00

Maverick - Quid Pro Quo artworkEvery so often, a band comes along who just get right in your face, grab you by the balls, swing you around the room, stomp all over your ass then pick you up, dust you down, smile knowingly, wink and say “Hi, let's party!”


That's the sort of effect Norn Iron rapscallions Maverick have had on this particular writer since they exploded onto the local scene a little under two years ago - and have continued to have on a growing legion of fans, both in this particular corner of the Uber-verse and, increasingly, further afield. And this debut album is not only a reputation-sealer for those already familiar with the young quintet's particularly infectious brand of good-time rawk 'n' roll, but a reputation-setter which could see them to be the first band in a long time to break free of the shackles of relatively claustrophobic NI scene and establish a firm foothold across the Oirish Sea in good ol' Britain of the Great - and, hopefully (and especially given the backing of the mighty Massacre Records) further afield in Europe...


Despite their relative youth - the guys vary between their early and mid-20s - Maverick's musical heritage is very firmly rooted in an era from before they, individually and collectively, were born... the Eighties. From the glam posing of Cinderella, Poison and Ratt, to the harder harmonics of Dokken, Winger and Y&T, via the classic metal in-your-face attitude of Judas Priest, these guys have proper as much hard rock flowing through their veins as they have plasma. And they are influences which they wear very much on their sleeves - or, in the case of lead singer David Balfour, on his cut-off denim: yes, even though I am mates with all the guys in the band, I will admit that what they do is nothing startlingly original... but, is anything these days?


The influences are there, and clear for all to see: but it is what the boys do in terms of translating this heritage into the modern musical mien that sets them apart; rather than follow the path followed by so many other acts (The Treatment anybody?) and regurgitate the same pat riffs for the 43rd millionth time, Maverick take the whole fucking lot, chuck it into a humungous blender, add a little of their own specially brewed Belfast spice and bring the era that they love bang smack up to date with an appropriate mixture of admiration, adoration, affection - and downright fuck-you-if-you-don't-like-it attitude!


The first thing that is immediately noticeable about this debut full-lengther is what a gigantic - or should that be titanic (sic) - leap forward it is from last year's formative 'Talk's Cheap' EP, in terms of the quality of the songwriting, the musicianship and production values. Take opener 'Snakeskin Sinner', for example: having taken the same place in the band's set for the last couple of months, it's snap and snarl immediately entwines into your subconscious that you find yourself equally subconsciously humming it in your own brain for days, if not weeks afterwards.


In one of my many conversations with the band during the recording process, they had talked about how producer Nigel Calderwood had taught them about the value of four part vocal harmonies: these are used to early effect on the towering single 'Paint By Numbers', which combines an infectious melody with a gritty double guitar attack from Ryan Balfour and Ric Cardwell. The latter was recruited to the band's ranks shortly before the band entered the studio, replacing founder member Chris Engelen, in what has proved to be a great move for both parties (Chris has gone on to form another band to watch out for, Dead Addiction), as Ric brings a lightness of touch which his predecessor's heavier approach would not quite have fitted...


Maverick - David and Ryan Balfour


'Got It Bad' very much falls into the Winger/Y&T mien mentioned earlier, while 'In Our Blood' - appropriately played live for the first time when the boys supported Dave Meniketti and co in Belfast earlier this month - definitely and defiantly hails the old school tradition that so many bands of their generation have cast by the wayside. The title track eases the pedal back slightly, without descending into pathetic soft-rock ballad territory, while 'Electric' sparks and spits with the intensity of a fusing sub-station, and 'Rock 'n' Roll Lady' brings the vocal harmonies to the fore again, against an almost punky re-interpretation of the Rolling Stones at the swaggering best.


As the album enters its last third, the initially dark and brooding 'Shackled' explodes into a glorious Dokken-esque riff, with Davy's vocals at the sort of sublime level Ron Keel or Steve Plunkett would have creamed their spandex to achieve in their heyday, while 'Last Addiction' takes every song by every band who ever preened and strutted along Sunset Strip, screws them into a little ball of cast-off sputum and kicks it so far out to sea it will come back and kick them in the arse in another 20 years’ time.


In a case of saving the best to (almost) last, penultimate track 'Side By Side' is a rebellious call to arms - or, rather, party - built on another North Wall solid drum line from Mike Ross, who, along with bass partner Richie Diver, is a rock steady anchor throughout: the twin guitars duck and dive, swoop and soar with the predatory instinct of a hawk espying a mouse at 4000 feet, while Davy's vocals are suitably visceral and vehement. Closer 'Took The Night' does have something of the element of a filler track, but nevertheless ranks as a fine closer to an album which has 12 tracks are all killer with no filler.


Maverick are a band who live and breathe the spirit of rock 'n' roll, and 'Quid Pro Quo' very much epitomizes that approach. I may be slightly biased, in that I know the guys involved: but, there is a reason they asked me to review this for them, and that is that they knew I would be honest in my appraisal... So, having sat in judgment on this album for four months now, the verdict is this: if you don't buy this album, and set it alongside the likes of 'Open Up And Say... Ahh!', 'In The Heart Of The Young', 'Invasion Of Your Privacy' or even 'Girls Girls Girls' or 'Back To Mystery City', then you don't like rock 'n' fuckin' roll motherfucker!


approved image lrg 2013'Quid Pro Quo' is released on Massacre Records on Thursday (November 28).


To pick up your copy of 'Quid Pro Quo' - CLICK HERE