Coney Hatch – Four

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Review by Harry Paterson

Frontiers Records

Something of a cult act, Coney Hatch’s reputation rests on an early-80s three album-span. Listeners unfamiliar with the band might still be aware of some the material, thanks to fellow Canadian, Aldo Nova, scoring a minor hit with a cover of the Hatch’s ‘Hey Operator’, appearing on his 1983 platter, Subject. 1985 saw the release of Friction, the band’s third album and generally acknowledged to be their finest hour. While some criticised the slightly lightweight Max Norman production, there could be no complaints with the songs, which were never less than stellar.

Sadly, an indifferent industry forced the band’s dissolution in 1986 and the much-rumoured reunion looked scuppered for good by 2008. A near-fatal car crash involving co-frontman, Carl Dixon, in Australia, appeared to kill any plans Coney Hatch might’ve had for greater triumphs. Remarkably, and thankfully, the universally-liked and admired singer and guitarist made a full recovery and the band finally made their UK debut at Fire Fest in 2011. And an unqualified triumph it was too. Headlining the Saturday night slot, there was irony in the only band at the UK’s premier AOR/melodic rock event to eschew keyboards trumping everything that had preceded them. With old fans consolidated and new ones turned on, more favourable terrain for a follow-up to the unquestionably excellent Friction would be hard to find.

And so to Four; that long-awaited follow-up to Friction. The secret of the band’s appeal has always depended on reconciling the two very distinct musical personalities of its principles. Carl Dixon’s material and voice – often in partnership with Steve Shelski, the band’s lead axe-wielder – tends to the melodic and more overtly commercial. Andy Curran, the band’s other vocalist – and bassist – providing the more hard-hitting material. Thus Friction’s Wrong Side of Town, a collaboration between the pair, really does blend the best of both possible worlds. Elsewhere, the two appeared to be simply different facets of the same being; thus a pleasing musical cohesion and continuity resulted.

Four, sadly, lacks that cohesion. In parts, it’s almost as though it were two separate albums. Curran and Dixon play decidedly opposite ends of the street and regrettably the twain rarely meet. The song-writing, in general, lacks the sparkle and abundance of hooks that characterised their earlier work. If bar-room thumpers are your thing, then lead-off single Blown Away will likely appeal. Likewise Curran’s Marseilles, which comes off like mid-80s sub-ACDC. Dixon sparkles, briefly, on Revive; a song that could have slotted neatly onto Friction. Otherwise, the markedly heavier approach doesn’t, disappointingly, disguise the recycled and generic nature of much of the material, particularly where the riffs are concerned. Overall, not quite what we’d hoped to see from such a hitherto class act. Here’s to Five eh, fellas?

Coney Hatch – Four7 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Blown Away
  2. Boys Club
  3. Down & Dirty
  4. Do It Again
  5. Connected
  6. Revive
  7. We Want More
  8. Devil U Know
  9. Marseille
  10. Keep Drivin’
  11. Holdin On