Monday, 26 September 2011

REVIEW: Frenzy - 'In The Blood' - LISTEN

In a world crippled by war, depression, paranoia, chaos and greed, you'd expect the public to be wanting to hear era-defining music that reflects the times instead of the bland mediocrity that fills the radio and television in 2010. Here, after over 3 years in the making is an album that not only defines the times, but brings us the joyously chaotic, raucous rock n roll soundtrack to lift us all through these dark days.

Frenzy formed in the early 80's, fronted by show-stopping upright bassist Steve Whitehouse. They enjoyed a string of hit singles and albums during the revival of the rockabilly scene in the 1980s, but after a dark and somewhat stale period in the 1990s and various line up changes, it looked like this band might have had their day. Then in the early 2000's with psychobilly enjoying a healthy revival, and a new crop of bands influenced by Frenzy's work, the group were joined by guitarist Steve Eaton and with the album 'Dirty Little Devils' the group started developing a new Frenzy sound that was heavier, more energetic and highly infectious. The songwriting partnership of Whitehouse and Eaton progressed further on the 2006 album 'Nitro Boy', which was followed by old drummer Adam Seviour rejoining the band and cementing the group's strongest line up yet, regarded widely as the most definitive.

Over the last four years, some incredible live performances, tours and festival appearances all over the world re-established the Somerset trio as an electrifying rock n roll band, but all this time they've been keeping a major ace card up their sleeves. This album has been in the making for over 3 of those years while the band made sure the record was as good as it could be, and waited for the right record label to give the album the proper release it deserved.

If you're an old Frenzy fan, this album is the finest work they have done in all their 27 year history, and a much more consistent record than its two predecessors and in retrospect 'Dirty Little Devils' and 'Nitro Boy' sound like mere warm-ups compared to this album. And if you've never heard Frenzy before, NOW is the time. This album injects the new life into rock n roll that was needed in this day and age, while reminding us that the great bits of history are to be celebrated while the dark moments and mistakes in history are to be learned from. It's also an album that will lyrically inspire you to keep fighting against the shit of day to day life and musically energise you with a heavy shot of adrenaline.

From the opening bass slapping chaos of 'Time Machine', we already know that we're in a for a treat. Seviour's snappy drumming catches the ear straight away as lyrics about time travel remark how great it would be to revisit classic eras in time rather than live in the shithole of a world we have in 2010. And of course being central to the neo-rockabilly scene, 'In The Blood' definitely revels in the past, but at the same time has a refreshing modern bite to it.

You won't be able to sit still listening to numbers such as the highly-infectious 'Hero', where Whitehouse's upright bass playing is sharper and (no pun intended) even more frenzied than ever and where the band well and truly whip up a musical storm. On the tough heavy swing of 'Twice The Struggle', Eaton picks out simple, effective little riffs while lyrically the song gives a rightful kick in the balls to useless, talentless people who somehow get everything while doing nothing to deserve it, while hard working musicians such as Frenzy have to work their bollocks off and not even get half the recognition. Well that's how I see it anyway. On the insane 'Johnny Rocket', a song about a psychobilly highwayman from outer space (with a "hotrod rocket ship"), Eaton demonstrates part of why he was such an important addition to the band when you hear him let rip on the solo, while Adam Seviour is like a rock n roll firework behind the drums, his playing impossible to ignore.

Then we get to 'In The Blood', the incredible title track and arguably the centrepiece of the record. Snappy, heavy and dark, the track seems to get bigger and more fierce with every verse until it steps up a gear and lets rip during the last chorus. Quite possibly the most essential 5 minutes and 21 seconds of their career. After such a strong title track, on first listen 'Go Away' sounds a bit throwaway. But after a couple of plays it proves itself to be rather addictive, a catchy riff and almost an Elvis in '68 vibe backing up a song that surely must be THE most enjoyable way of telling someone to fuck off. 'Forever Ticking Clock' is essentially a lyrical and musical relative of 'One Way Taxi' (from the previous album 'Nitro Boy'), a song about the inevitability of death, which despite the grim subject matter is great fun to listen to, and reminds you that despite the fact that we're all going to die, we're still alive now.

The terrific 'Stop The World' is not a Crass or Subhumans-style political lecture, but simply addresses what's going on around us in the most direct terms possible while highlighting how it affects us all in the form of a tough, no-nonsense beast of a rock n roll tune. After these hard hitting lyrical topics, lighter relief comes in the form of 'Adrenaline' which is a complete no-brainer, a straight-forward celebration of the fun that is had at every Frenzy show as well as the satisfaction the guys get from giving it their all. And during this song you'll hear some reminders of the vintage Frenzy sound, with post-chorus interludes reminiscent of sounds from their classic 1980's LP 'Clockwork Toy'.

But it's the closing track 'Dark Winter' that is perhaps the most interesting. Like 'Stop The World', this is what some would call a 'political' track, but more of a "fuck you" to all the bankers and city people who led the world to a financial meltdown, and how their actions affected people all over the world, including the guys in Frenzy. But the big surprise comes in the middle of the song, with an accomplished-sounding and (almost) psychedelic interlude that almost brings to mind British 60's music and somehow sits perfectly in the middle of the song before it once again kicks back into the trademark Frenzy swing. A reminder that the boundaries of rock n roll music can be pushed further than some think, and (like the rest of this album) proof that the world of rockabilly has moved on from songs about pin-up girls and Cadillacs.

With an LP packed with tight rock and roll belters that provide Frenzy with the album that they can be proud to call their defining work, the old masters of psychobilly are back, and setting a new standard for the many groups that formed in their wake. Essential. 9/10

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