Monday, February 5, 2024

Jack J Hutchinson - Battles

It’s time for one of our periodic expeditions into the Valley of Hard Rock, folks, where today we will explore Battles, the new album by Jack J Hutchinson.  Now, our Jack’s name is often associated with blues-rock, but on Battles he generally steers away from that kind of sound. Instead Mr Hutchinson has mounted an earth-mover, and dug up a few mighty, mighty riffs for your consideration.
Opening track ‘Constellations’ is a case in point, serious head banging stuff with a crunch-and-twirl riff that, like one or two other outings here, puts me in mind of Dio-era Sabbath.  Which is ironic, because Hutchinson’s voice is of a distinctly more Ozzy-like timbre – though better, because less whiny, and benefitting here and elsewhere from some judicious double-tracking
Jack J Hutchinson - think he needs the decorators in
Pic by Rob Blackham
which rounds it out.  Oh yeah, and there’s a tyre-squealing wah-wah solo that very much fits the bill too.
‘Bullets’ is another hard-charging affair, steaming along like a locomotive powered by Phil Wilson’s drums and Charlie Rachael Kay’s bass, and with some interesting “stings” of guitar giving a pleasing twist to the riff towards its conclusion.  There’s a Diamond Head-like intensity to ‘Rip It Up’, with its guttural-meets-spiky riffage, a melodic chorus concluding that “The reflection that you see is love not hate”, and a guitar break that’s short’n’sharp.  And there are two more out and out rockers with ‘Don’t Let the Fuckers Get You Down’ and ‘Overdrive’.  The former is all whirling, spiralling guitar punctuated with cowbell to go with Wilson’s wrecking ball kick drum, before it hits the accelerator for a turbo-charged solo over a storming backdrop that ultimately crashes into a bundle of ringing, semi-discordant power chords.  Hutchinson has suggested the riff to ‘Overdrive’ carries echoes of Metallica, and he may well be right.  Not being an aficionado of the Sandman chaps, I’ll just say that its simple, chugging groove has plenty of oomph, the bass and drums locked in tight.  But there’s a decent tune in there too, and Hutchinson adds satisfactorily wailing wah-wah commentary too.
It's not all heads down, no nonsense stuff though, as Hutchinson throttles back a tad for the moodier ‘Days Are Gone’ and lurching ‘Running On Empty’.  Then three tracks are even more diverse.‘Road To Hell’ goes for a slower, widescreen Western kinda vibe about a man who has “one hand on the bottle, one foot in the grave”, which is a bit hackneyed for my taste even though it’s done nicely enough, with more of a keening, reverb-treated vocal.  ‘Love Is The Law’ is also toned down, and more soulful, with good harmonies layering a lush, appealing chorus, and a subtle solo over fuzzy guitar chords.  And ‘Stay With Me’ is a properly sensitive ballad, opening with twinkling guitar and solemn vocals from Hutchinson, ahead of an aching, harmony-embellished chorus, adding up to an impressive slice of radio-friendly melodic rock that Def Leppard would be happy with.
Hats off to producer Josiah J Manning, who has worked with a host of British acts including the Kris Barras Band and Wille & The Bandits, and does a sterling job here, co-writing the material and capturing the heavy stuff with a diamond-hard edge, and also buffing up Hutchinson’s vocals to a fine lustre.
Battles isn't what you'd call a revolutionary recording.  But it is a well-conceived, clearly executed piece of handiwork on Jack J Hutchinson’s part. The arrangements are short and to the point, and there are no extraneous tracks to dull the senses.  So, if you’re ready to rock, dive in!
Battles is released on 9 February, and can be ordered here.

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