Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Bad Day Blues Band - Table By The Wall

“Brim-full of vim!”  That’s the phrase that first came to mind on first acquaintance with this first studio album from The Bad Day Blues Band.
As the opening three tracks unwound my first impression was of something . . . hectic, the guitar, bass, drums, harmonica and vocals all fighting for space.  With a retro-looking album sleeve, it comes over like The Yardbirds’ ‘Train Kept A-Rollin’’ catapaulted into the 21st century.  On their cover of Sam and Dave’s ‘Hold On (I’m Coming)’ Sam Spranger’s harp deputises for Stax horns, while Adam Rigg whomps away on bass, and Nick Peck’s guitar scrambles for attention along with Rigg’s rather tremulous vocal.  On the title track drummer Andrea Tremolada lets loose with a cacophonous bombardment as Spranger and Peck jostle for the foreground around a riff that
The Bad Day Blues Band psych themselves up for rock'n'roll rabble-rousing

sounds like it’s been yanked unceremoniously from Skynyrd – and though Rigg sings about something or other tasting like “black coffee and sweet Mary Jane”, I’m thinking that if this lot have a preferred narcotic it’ll something of a speedier variety.  Then on ‘Burn It Down’, trilling guitar and harp try not to be overwhelmed by the rhythm section, while Rigg shakes off his earlier reediness to snarl his way through proceedings, and Spranger whips out a simmering harp solo.
By this stage I’m rehearsing phrases like “endearingly ramshackle” and “naïve enthusiasm”.  But after several spins of Table By The Wall in its entirety, I’ve changed my mind.  Their sound may be unvarnished, but this is not the work of raw recruits.  There’s more to this musical maelstrom than at first meets the ear, and as the tracks go by it comes into sharper focus.
There’s some imagination to ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’, for example, with the curious yelps of its chorus over rumbling jungle drum backing, before Peck starts to carve out a high-octane Bo Diddley riff, all rough-hewn slabs of guitar chords.  This becomes the foundation for another impressive Spranger harp turn, followed by a tightly-wound, bleeping and squealing guitar break.  ‘Hurricane’ is a rocker that bursts into life with a roaring, twiddly-accented guitar riff, but also demonstrates their sense of balance, with good dynamics in the bridge and some jolting halts to proceedings – oh yeah, and a helter-skelter slide solo.
‘Wandering Man’ kicks off with a Stonesy, ringing guitar riff, and features a taut, whip-cracking drum sound, as well as to-ing and fro-ing harp, while the lyric raises a smile as the protagonist-of-no-fixed-abode reflects that he’s “got five little kids and no damn socks”.  Then ‘Jump’ is straight up rock’n’roll blues, with a riff that in racing parlance is by John Lee Hooker out of ‘La Grange’, with a reverb-plastered snare drum and Spranger’s harp wailing over the top.
They slow things down a mite for the primitive mid-paced chug of bass’n’drums’n’guttural guitar on the spelling song ‘Forget’, with Rigg’s quivering vocal veering towards an Elvis lip curl at times, while Spranger shudders away on harp and Peck adds a couple of teeth-grating guitar solos.  Then they get real mellow, romantic even, on final track ‘Luna Rooms’ – until it explodes into a rock’n’roll frenzy a minute and a half in, Peck’s spiky guitar clambering all over the rhythm section, Spranger’s harp elbowing in, and Rigg wailing away fit to bust as the things careers along like a runaway train.
Some stronger hooks wouldn’t go amiss in the song-writing department, but all twelve tracks are still solid fare.  And though on the whole I prefer Rigg’s wigging out to his crooning, the contrast in vocal styles does offer light and shade.  But get this - Table By The Wall is way too polite an album title for this malarkey.  Table Chucked Through A Plate Glass Window would be closer to the mark.  The Bad Day Blues Band mean business.

Table By The Wall is released by Lunaria Records on 5 February, and can be pre-ordered here.

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