Anyone expecting the raw, bruising melodic rock of ‘Taking On The World’ and ‘Gallus’- all attitude and adrenaline pumping hooks – or the funked up poppiness of ‘Swagger’ and ‘0141 632 6326’ will be caught totally by surprise with ‘Break The Silence’. This is a striking reinvention, largely signalled by 2010’s ‘Popkiller’ EP, and coincides with the promotion of erstwhile bassman, Dante Gizzi to the role of vocalist and front man. Gizzi’s second band, El Presidente flirted with chart success several times since its formation in the early 2000s, and the band’s music has clearly bled into Gun’s rock’n’roll aesthetic.
Producer is Dave Eringa, most notably the man who produced, mixed and engineered the Manic Street Preachers, but also Ocean Colour Scene and Idlewild among others. It is his ability to capture the paradox ridden contrariness of the Manic’s music and make it sound the most natural thing in the world which made Eringa the natural choice for this departure. That said, Gun’s previous – and very appealing – rough edges and sharp corners have been sanded smooth by Eringa in an attempt to widen the band’s appeal. And for the first couple of tracks that seems to have the effect of flattening the band’s sound, squeezing out any character it once possessed.
It’s a huge but welcome surprise then, to discover that beyond that – in fact for the next 9 of the 11 tracks here – this is an awesome recording. It’s clear the band’s passion burns as brightly as ever. ‘Break The Silence’ has huge heart and soul and is frequently illuminated by lightning bolts of song writing brilliance.
Though they haven’t exactly been force fitting their songs to a chart hit template, the title track sounds a lot more radio friendly than past fare. It starts off slow, then quickly accelerates, allowing Gizzi’s gutsy falsetto to launch a dizzying chorus into orbit, riding a gorgeous rush of pop optimism, echoing the euphoric, loud and proud groove of the Scissor Sisters. And the truly fabulous axe work on the outro suggests the track is just begging for an extended edit.
‘Caught In The Middle’ and ‘Innocent Thieves’ tap successfully into the zeitgeist, aping the surging power of Arcade Fire at its sweetest, most musical and Temper Trap at its most aggressively anthemic, full of swooning orchestration and tightly layered harmonies, carrying both songs on high to satisfying conclusions.
Gizzi sounds totally at home on the loping, hard rock grooves and of ’Running Out Of Time’. Like so many tracks here, it ascends to a crescendo of heart stopping hooks, crashing guitars and expansive harmonies.
And any questions we have about Gizzi’s voice – raised simply because of the style of his predecessors – are unequivocally answered by his performances all through the album. He channels Mick Jagger and Axl Rose into the noble ‘Many Roads’, but fittingly, what gives this song real weight is the soulful arrangement and a towering chorus, augmented by a wailing gospel choir and dramatic, soaring strings.
So, no hulking, hardrock bruisers. A few anthems but no bombast. But in no way do we feel shortchanged.
Just when we thought that the much-deserved but elusive breakthrough moment might have passed them by, Gun come back with ‘Break the Silence’ and a fresh new beginning.
Unquestionably, my album of the year so far and it will take some beating.
Rated 9 out of 10