Review by Brian McGowan
This British Rock band’s history has been well documented, but the salient points are these:
Sealed in aspic for 20 years, the band’s original recordings were renovated, replastered etc and released as City Streets in 2008. A well received new album, Undivided in 2010 and now, to cement their position as flagbearers for British Melodic Rock, SOS.
But it’s a real patchwork quilt of an album.
Threadbare in places – the overcooked ‘Fire’ and AOR refugee, ‘Can’t Hide My Heart’ sound like cutting room floor castoffs, resurrected to fill out the album’s playing time. Big ballad and album centrepoint, ‘Caught Between Life And The Light’ takes to long to get nowhere. Just when you think nothing’s about to happen, it doesn’t. They huff and they puff, but the track amounts to little more than chest beating histrionics.
Other tracks slavishly follow the melodic rock blueprint – ‘Amber Lee’, ‘Soul Of Fire’ – joining the dots with enthusiasm, but they simmer rather than sparkle, sounding a lot like missed opportunities.
Amazingly, the fabric of the album is held together by a small handful of more than decent songs, each different, each with its own identity.
‘Gonna Lose Her’ is immense, album standout by a huge margin. It’s gritty, grainy yet soulfully melodic, very Isley Brothers, very FM. Rock music for grown ups.
It’s succeeded by two tracks that try valiantly to maintain that standard, both of which are reflections on the past, which perhaps explains each track’s sweet, melancholy undertones. Sketched around a dominant piano and an inviting hook, the poppier ‘Remember Yesterday’ could have been cannibalised from some of the better Badfinger albums, while the harder edged ‘Mercury Dropping’ has a bit more bite in the verse and a bit more barb in the hook.
But without labouring the point, elsewhere the calibre of the songs just isn’t good enough to carry us through. Lacklustre arrangements and overall, an underwhelming production job undermines songs that just might have moved up the curve with a little more inspiration and imagination behind them.
6 out of 10
- Can’t Hide My Heart
- Gonna Lose Her
- Remember Yesterday
- Mercury Falling
- Amber Lee
- Caught Between Life And The Light
- Flying Too Close To The Sun
- Soul Of Fire