Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Robert Jon & The Wreck - Ride Into The Light

What can I say about Robert Jon & The Wreck that I haven’t said already?  Precious little perhaps, but here goes anyway, with their latest album Ride Into The Light.
Some of this album may sound familiar to you, because it includes all four tracks from their One Of A Kind EP released back in March, just a month before their hefty Live At The Ancienne Belgique outing. Now, in this day and age I think the Wreckers may be onto something by departing from the “album every two years” kinda release schedule of past decades, especially when many artists overburden those albums with 13 or 14 songs.  Of course, it helps when you’re as prolific at writing belters as Robert Jon Burrison and co,
Robert Jon & The Wreck draw straws to decide who's not getting a seat
Pic by Rob Bondurant
but maintaining your profile with regular new music seems like a good scheme to me.  Can’t say I’m quite so convinced about including the entirety of an EP on your next studio album just a few months later, but hell, what do I know?
Whatever.  Ride Into The Light underlines the Wreck’s sublime talent as purveyors of good rockin' tonite.  Like the Stones, they’re not heavy like metal, but they sure do rock’n’roll.  Opener ‘Pain No More’ clatters into life with a staccato riff before downshifting for Burrison to deliver a conversational verse, then they ramp up through a harmony-enhanced chorus before cycling back to that neck-snapping riff.  And then lead guitarist Henry James (aka Schneekluth) gets to work in typically fine fashion.  But here’s the thing – they’re just getting warmed up.
A little later ‘Come At Me’ is a trump card and then some – top quality, in yer face rockin’, chock-full of big riffing, clever little turnarounds on the tense verses, and a surging, headbanging, shoutalong chorus, to which James adds a sharp, stinging guitar solo.  But the Wreck really do know when they’ve got their hands on a killer hook, and they batter you over the head with this one to create three minutes and fifteen seconds of dynamite.  Then they follow that with the juddering, slamming ‘One Of A Kind’, replete with slaloming slide fills and another blistering James solo.  I mean shit – what do these guys take of a morning to get this juiced up?  A quart of OJ and Red Bull?  Each?  And just to be clear, I mean all of ‘em, because while Burrison and James are out front shaking up a storm, that vibrant sound is an ensemble affair, driven along by a crack rhythm section in drummer Andrew Espantman and bassist Warren Murrel, plus additional organ voltage and piano decoration from Jake Abernathie.  Oh yeah, and they dial up killer harmonies all over the place too.
And those harmonies are well to the fore on their more mellow side, typified by the excellent Eagles-style country rock of ‘Who Can You Love’, which surfs in on some shimmering guitar before conjuring up another chorus to die for.  Seriously, where do these guys find all these hooks?  Did they stumble over a treasure chest of ‘em buried in their backyard or something?  Or sell their collective souls to the devil in Joshua Tree National Park on some chilly Californian night?  Mind you, their other ballady-type outing here, the Thrills-like ‘West Coast Eyes’, is a smidgen too mellow for my tastes, notwithstanding some more standout slide guitar from Henry James.  Is it a duff tune?  Hell no, it’s plenty stylish and well put together – just a bit too sweet to be wholesome. 
Along the way there’s ‘Bring Me Back Home Again’, a dynamic affair veering between a slow, storm-laden mood with stomping drums from Espantman and slithering slide commentary from James, more reflective piano and vocal moments, and soaring vocals from Burrison on the chorus.  ‘Don’t Look Down’ features another rattling, helter-skelter riff, a punchy melody with Robert Jon giving it less than his full tilt holler – just – plus some guitar duelling and a nah-nah-nah singalong to close.
After all that, the closing ‘Ride Into The Light’ is a lighter, summery affair to send you on your way, possibly cruising down the highway through Big Sur to the accompaniment of its catchy harmonised guitar line.
If you haven’t been Wrecked by Robert Jon and his buddies before now, it’s not too late.  Ride Into The Light is a lip-smacking introduction that will have you digging into their impressive back catalogue until their next release comes along – which will probably be in a month or two.
Ride Into The Light is out now on Journeyman Records.

Robert Jon & The Wreck are touring Britain from 13-24 September.  Full details of all tour dates, and tickets, are available here.

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