Review by Brian McGowan
Fraze Gang are one of the most convincing descendants yet in a cross-generational lineage of classic Canadian melodic hard rock bands. A template strand of DNA that time has threaded through bands like Coney Hatch, Honeymoon Suite, April Wine, Harem Scarem and many, many others.
It’s no surprise to learn then that they were formed from the remnants of Brighton Rock, an eighties‘ Canadian band that raised its reformed head above the parapet periodically through the 1990s and the 2000s.
This, their second album of unpretentious eighties’ styled melodic hard rock, reflects the simplicity and starkness of the album packaging, yet it’s filled with carefully crafted melodies, measured riffs and sturdy hooks, sprinkled with rich, ebullient harmonies that come in short, focused bursts.
You constantly feel there’s plenty of power held in reserve. A holding back that suggests an insouciant cool. The confident, battle hardened result of years of touring grind, delivered with a light touch. The songs may be grounded in hard rock, but the blue collar lyrics – often heartfelt – hint at resolution and redemption, often with surprising subtlety.
Powerful opening trio, ‘Saint Or Sinner’, ‘In Your Face’ and ‘Juggernaut’ have a distinct Dokkenesque / Black’n’Blue undercurrent. It‘s an echo of an era, but clearly one that’s more earnest pastiche than copycat plagiarism. In fact, arguably, ‘2’ is a pretty sophisticated piece of retro music-making, only rather than painstakingly emulating the colourful sounds of the eighties, the band frame the music in a more contemporary, monochrome musical setting.
There’s an occasional detour into Southern Rock territory, ’White Lightning’ for example, though the track is also reminiscent – and perhaps this should be no surprise – of latter day Triumph, when they brought in M’laden (Von Groove) on guitars.
The cover of Willie Dixon’s ‘I just Wanna Make Love to You’ looks out of place on the track list, but the actuality is a rather good rock arrangement of an old blues song. And satisfyingly, it’s an arrangement that owes nothing to the many covers of the song (or at least to the dozen or so I’ve heard).
Elsewhere, ‘Tough Enough’ s sparse, dry-as-a-bone riff will have you looking Ozwards, and the perfectly suited acoustic setting for the balladic ‘This Is It’ is nicely fleshed out with blues flavoured guitar stylings.
The album seems much shorter than its industry standard 45 minutes, simply because – despite the fact that none of the ten tracks is apparently in a hurry to get anywhere – they often reach their conclusion all too soon.
That said, the memorable melodies and sinuous hooks leave a sweet aftertaste, one that lingers long after the last note has sounded.
8 out of 10
1. Saint or Sinner
2. In Your Face
4. Never Want To Say Goodbye
5. White Lightning
6. Tough Enough
7. I Just Want To Make Love To You
8. Don’t Call Us We’ll Call You
9. This Is It