Friday, May 20, 2022

Xander and the Peace Pirates - Order Out Of Chaos

“Go on then – surprise me!”  Really, this should be the music blogger’s motto.  See, an awful lot of “pretty good” albums cross my path.  But it takes more than that to really grab my attention, and keep it.  Xander and the Peace Pirates, though, have managed it with their second album Order Out Of Chaos.  Well, mostly.
What Xander and co have going for them is a sound that’s all their own.  Oh, a few vague comparisons are there to be made, and I’ll make ‘em, don’t you worry.  But when the opening track ‘We Cry’ kicks things off, what I’m hearing is something decidedly different.  Careful intertwining of acoustic and electric guitar lines paves the way for Keith Xander’s light, soulful, aching voice.  There are blissed out chords like a mirage in the desert - but, y’know, in sound.  
The deeply moody and sensitive Xander and the Peace Pirates

It’s an imaginative, trippy setting for a plaintive (and timely) lyric about the horror of warfare.  There’s also a lightly funky segueway into a two-guitar conversation, and an urgent outro replete with spoken word snippets in the background.  Is there a whisper of Buffalo Springfield’s ‘For What It’s Worth’ fluttering around some of the chords?  Maybe - and that would be apposite for the lyrical vibe.  But the melding of Keith Xander and Mike Gay’s electric guitars with Stu Xander’s acoustic is their own creation.
A similarly reflective quality pervades ‘Leave The Light On’, with prickly guitar lines surfing Adam Goldberg’s rolling drums and thrumming bass from Joel Goldberg.  There’s a smidgen of Hall & Oates in the soulful delivery of some imaginative contemplation about homelessness, and a splintering guitar solo that shows you don’t need to go at warp speed to make your mark.  The opening verse of ‘Soul Sailing’ dials things down even further with a combination of just acoustic guitar and mournful slide, before they kick into a hooky chorus reinforced by good harmonies, and there’s another incisive, biting, effects-enhanced solo to round it off.
They spread themselves a bit on both ‘I’m No Good At Being Bad’ and ‘Order Out Of Chaos’, but in different directions.  The former moves from twinkling guitar to a gutturally-pitched riff, and hints at Foreigner in earnest mode.  Keith Xander offers up some effective dabs of falsetto, and there’s some tasty, spaced-out slide guitar á la Dave Gilmour before they rev up for the bridge.  Then the title track pulls out more of those shimmering guitar chords over a steady beat as the backdrop to another round of thoughtful social commentary, like a smoother and more ethereal Wille & The Bandits.  Keith Xander scores with another soulful vocal, and there’s a pinballing guitar solo for good measure
The wistful ‘Into The Water’ continues to be convincing in this vein, with its perfectly judged, elegiac mood, and they take the swaying ‘Kiss The Rain’ at a bit more of a clip, adding in some out-of-the-ordinary, wind chime-like guitar sounds.  But by the time we get to the more-of-the-similar ‘Breathless’ my attention is sagging a bit, and the brief ‘Fog’ doesn’t offer much of a gear change.
But with the closing ‘Heart Stop’ they do knock out a sturdier riff, and inject it with more swing, as if they were belatedly aware a palate cleanser was required.  It also comes with a lyric featuring some lines that would make David Coverdale blush – well, maybe – and though there’s a bit more rock’n’roll to the guitar solo the song jolts to a halt after two-and-a-half minutes, as if they’d run out of ideas.
So yeah, Xander and the Peace Pirates caught my attention good and proper with their distinctively British soulful rock stylings (in spite of the transatlantic references made above) and thoughtful lyrics.  And for most of the album they kept me hooked with a bunch of strong songs, impressively delivered.  If they’d just managed to stir a bit more range and dynamics into that recipe then Order Out Of Chaos would be a potently satisfying brew.  As it is, it’s still a welcome surprise.
Order Out Of Chaos is out now, and can be ordered here.

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