Time for a wander into hard rock territory I think, in the company of the recently released second album from Wayward Sons, The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be.
Put simply, on the evidence of their debut outing Ghost Of Yet To Come, and seeing them live, Wayward Sons are just about the freshest, most attention-grabbing straight-up modern rock band to have emerged in years. And I gotta tell you, if The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be isn’t quite as chock-full of stone cold killer tunes as its predecessor, it comes damn close.
|Wayward Sons deliver another feelgood hit|
Pic by Gary Gilmurray
The freshness is a product of their expert melding of different elements into their distinctive sound. Wayward Sons take the dense, percussive riffing of the Foo Fighters, underpinned by a mountainous rhythm section courtesy of Phil Martini’s drums and Nic Wastell’s bass, and combine it with a more British classic rock sensibility, and – adding to their repertoire since their debut - some strands of pomp à la Queen. Plus, in Toby Jepson they have a standout singer and front man, who has all the power, range and clarity you could ask for in a rock vocalist. And he does a very impressive line in sharp, thought-provoking lyrics into the bargain – a bit wordy maybe, and more oblique than on Ghost, but smart all the same.
The ultimate peak here is ‘Joke’s On You’, the first single released from the album, which is less mega-heavy than some other tracks, but combines descending piano chords and a stop-time riff to pave the way for a grapnel-like hook. Martini’s drum sound is huge, and Jepson ventures some semi-snarled vox, but there’s still room for dynamics, and spiralling, competing guitar lines from Sam Wood towards the end work a treat. Once upon a time, in simpler days, it would have been described as a “surefire hit”.
The Queen influence emerges for the first time on the following ‘Little White Lies’. Jepson is a self-confessed Queen nut, and even if all the guitar work here is down to Wood, the intro positively reeks of Brian May, which proves to be a mere appetiser for his solo, which has that familiar razor-wire May tone, a product of sustain, echo, Chorus effects or whatever it is
|Toby Jepson - Wayward Son Number 1|
Pic by Gary Gilmurray
The Brian May guitar sounds resurface on a few other tracks, including the Queen-like drama of ‘Fade Away’, which kicks off with delicate piano from Dave Kemp, and Jepson’s restrained delivery of an elegiac, autumnal melody, before Wood goes to work with some appropriately counterpointed licks.
Other personal faves include ‘Feelgood Hit’, whose buzzing opening riff turns jagged over pounding drums, before easing off on the verse ahead of an urgent, busy chorus that strong enough to warrant them beating the listener over the head with it. Then there’s ‘Long Line Of Pretenders’, on which another May-like intro leads to a cool verse over stop-start guitar, followed by a descending chorus over pounding piano that carries faint echoes of glam rock fun. The title track and ‘Us Against The World’ both sport anthemic choruses, the latter augmented by a contemplative opening over ringing guitars and a tweeting keyboard line, with a squealing solo from Wood for good measure.
There also a (semi) hidden track, ‘Totally Screwed’, to create a baker’s dozen of songs – a hammering slice of polemic that suggests the young Elvis Costello converted to hard rock. And though it’s brief and to the point, it still squeezes in another great guitar break.
The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be confirms that Wayward Sons are a day-glo bright presence on the current hard rock scene – no thud and blunder, no clatter and noise, just well-focused musical energy. Why they’re still schlepping around in support slots is beyond me. These guys are born headliners.