So here’s the thing, people. There are some reviewers out there who are going to tell you that Shake A Leg is a barnstorming album. These reviewers, I have to tell you, are wrong.
It’s all a matter of opinion of course. But here’s my opinion. Shake A Leg is a decidedly mixed affair – just like its predecessor, Truth Be Told.
Let me put this into perspective. Bad Touch are not a bad band. I’ve seen them live playing support slots, and they’re an entertaining bunch of rock’n’rollers who get it on with cheerful, head banging abandon. In drummer George Drewry and bassist Michael Bailey they have a rock solid, driving rhythm section. Guitarists Daniel Seekings and Rob Glendinning are capable of punching out powerful riffs, and the latter can produce some sparky lead work. Front man Stevie Westwood has plenty of vocal poke under the bonnet to match the rest of them, and a few other tools at his disposal to boot.
Unfortunately though, no one seems to have a firm enough hand on the tiller when it comes to songwriting or quality control. And as a result, the whole is often less than the sum of its parts.
|Bad Touch - Hat's Alright Mama
Pic by Rob Blackham
Opener ‘Lift Your Head Up’ shows some promise, with cannon-like drums driving things along under a decent hook and a simple, catchy riff. But while the following ‘Hammer Falls’ initially piques the interest with a winding figure on lone guitar that recalls Rush’s ‘Secret Touch’, melodically it offers an anthemic chorus and not much else.
This sets the pattern for several of the songs that follow. There’s a crashing riff, a bit of dynamics and a chant-along chorus – not the last - over persuasive bass and drums on ‘Too Many Times’, but the lyrics are clichéd. And so it goes on. Westwood’s vocals seem stuck in the same gear, in spite of his handy way with a machine-gun delivery, though in fairness the sound is always strong and bright, and Glendinning adds some colour with the odd quickfire solo.
So it’s a relief when track 6 comes around, because ‘I Belong’ finally demonstrates some sense of feeling and identity as Westwood contemplates his home town, augmented by some attractive slide guitar and an air of southern rock, and some shifts in volume for further variety. But then three more tracks muddle by, with only ‘Tussle’ doing much to grab the attention thanks to the buzzing guitar and stuttering drums of its opening, more rat-a-tat diction from Westwood, and a decent solo from Glendinning.
And then, lo and behold, the clouds begin to part. ‘Believe In Me’ begins in more reflective fashion, and has a better melody. Showing a touch more restraint, it demonstrates that less can be more – it’s just a stronger song on several levels, structured better and with a guitar solo that sounds as if it has something to say. The following ‘Movin’ On Up’ may not be a classic, but at least it maintains the momentum - chugging along merrily with all the dots joined up properly, it allies a not bad riff and an okay hook with another decent little solo from Glendinning.
They take their time over ‘Slow Tempest’, with acoustic strumming and an appealing melody, another neat solo, and some appealing harmonies into the bargain. Then the closing ‘Bury Me (When I’m Gone)’ finds them in what strikes me as their natural, Black Crowes-ish territory. It opens with subtle guitar and vocals, and Westwood shows off his vocal chops to good effect throughout.
If Shake A Leg had a beginning and middle to match the closing tracks, it would have been a markedly better album. Still not a great album, but perhaps at least a good one. Bad Touch have some talent, but if they really want to make it, I suggest they find a producer who will kick their collective ass for a month of Sundays until they deliver material of more consistent quality.
Shake A Leg is released on 5 October on Marshall Records.Bad Touch tour the UK from 17 October. Tour dates available here.