By DJ Monk
Much has been printed and said, not least on this very site, about the much-vaunted New Wave Of Classic Rock – or NWOCR as all the cool kids are calling it – and how bands are looking to re-invent the past to assure the future of our beloved rock ‘n’ roll. Dozens, nay hundreds, have jumped on the bandwagon, as they inevitably do, as they revisit the sounds of yesteryear and endeavour to give it their own twist in order to be named the latest flavour of the month and become that all important (not least in their own eyes) “next big thing”. Many have succeeded. Just as many have failed…
Which brings us very neatly to Vambo, and their self-titled debut album, the major problem with which is that they endeavour to be all things to all men – and therein lies its inherent issues, as they lack a consistency of style, resulting in a confusing of mix which has you scratching your head as much as reaching for the skip button to see if things get any better… which, unfortunately, they don’t!
The problem is evident right from the opening track, ‘Now You See Me’ (feck, I wish I hadn’t!). It’s a complete mishmash of styles, from basic Mott-ish blues rock through funk, with reggae touches on the bass line, to Seventies-style psychedelia. Things don’t get much better on lead single ‘Why Why Why’, which has me asking exactly that question: the crunch of the main guitar riff grates against the lackadaisical rhythm, while the solo sounds completely out of place. It’s as if the four guys were all put into separate rooms, given four separate pieces of music and then their grannies tried to crochet them together.
Now, don’t me get wrong: these guys can play. Jack Stiles, in particular, has a very good voice, very well suited to the more soul-rock moments on the album, such as ‘Cry Woman’, and Pete Lance can wring out a neat solo. But there is no homogeneity to the album: the feeling is of a bunch of songs thrown against a wall and the band waiting to see which ones fell onto the studio floor first. The inconsistency makes it difficult to grasp the album as an entire entity.
There are moments where things work, and work superbly, in their own context. ‘Dancing With The Devil’ is beautiful, with its superb mix of Seventies pop/rock/soul sensibility, great use of vocal harmonies and winding guitar riff-into-harmony consummation. But, it’s just four decades too late. As is ‘World Of Misery’, which evokes one of those flare-trousered pub rock bands that occasionally managed to pollute certain primetime TV programmes, or even late night ones whose producers should have known better. But, for every moment of light, there are too many that take you take that back alley marked “why bother?”: ‘Running In Circles’ lives up to its title in doing just that. Closer ‘Fast Car’ is also a fairly decent tune which I wouldn’t turn off if it came on the ye olde radiogram (but, then, I don’t listen to the radio…).
Vambo undoubtedly are aware of their heritage – after all, they take their name from a Sensational Alex Harvey Band song. Unfortunately, they are not creating one of their own, and the result is that is one of the more forgettable albums in the ever-increasing canon of forgettable NWOCR contributions.
- ‘Vambo’ is out now. You can get your copy HERE.
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