Rarely has an album title so perfectly captured its contents: The piss and vinegar of the Godfathers at their glorious British rock and roll finest.
Lord, it must be tough being tagged as an “80’s band” especially if one’s had a modicum of success in the U.S. where we have particularly short memories/attention spans. I mean, just how many versions of “I Melt With You” are you expected to release? The Godfathers, London’s grand old men of tailored-suited punk rockers, had a taste of U.S. radio play in 1987 with their smashing “Work, School, Birth, Death” and two years later with “She Gives Me Love.” They could easily be coasting on past glories and leasing out their tunes to insurance companies and condom manufacturers respectively.
But lead singer and chief GF Peter Coyne is nothing if not hard-nosed – try crossing him on Facebook if you don’t believe me – and so he has brought together an all-new set of players to revitalize the Godfathers brand and on A Big Bad Beautiful Noise, they do it in spades. Rarely has an album title so perfectly captured its contents, the piss and vinegar of the Godfathers at their glorious British rock and roll finest. ABBBN proves their best record since 1991’s sorely underappreciated Unreal World.
The title track is a venomous ode to urban living which shows the new players already clicking: drums, bass and guitars up front and in the listener’s face while Coyne’s voice, muted and slightly processed, is anticipatory and dangerous. “I feel so alive tonight” he sings and, as police sirens wail at the fade out, one has to wonder just what malfeasance has him feeling this way. This, of course, has always been Coyne’s stock-in-trade: the not-so vaguely threatening sneer and he puts it to good use throughout the record. “Till My Heart Stops Beating,” is a propulsive earworm that lingers long after it ends while “You Don’t Love Me,” a showcase for drummer Tim James, and “Poor Boy’s Son” are classic-sounding Godfathers’ cuts. “Defibrillator,” the punkiest tune on the set, offers Coyne’s most coruscating vocal (though one has to question his knowledge of baseball, Strike Four?).
“She’s Mine” dials back the adrenaline and comes within spitting distance of a croon, which is saying something as Coyne’s vocals live squarely at the intersection of singing and talking, not unlike the late Lou Reed, which may explain why the Godfathers never quite garnered the acclaim of some of their contemporaries. Varied lead vocals are not story here though the new band throws plenty of “woo-hoo-hoo’s” into the background for local color. No, the order of the day is guitars, guitars and more guitars. Steve Crittall and Mauro Venegas utterly shine, churning out chunky riffs, shiny bright leads and low-down dirty noise, all of it pristinely captured and out front of the mix.
One of two epics on ABBBN, “Miss America” is a cutting treatise on American politics and its place in the world from the POV of a Brit and it ain’t pretty. The band is absolutely ferocious, meshing fully and sounding every bit a match for any band out there today. The second epic, “You and Me Against the World” (not a Helen Reddy cover though the Godfathers should consider taking on her 1973 hit, “Leave Me Alone”), veers back and forth between soft introspection and freak-out guitar wash, an apt closer from a band that’s persevered for more than 30 years and, with this fine outing, appear unlikely to stop anytime soon.
A Big Bad Beautiful Noise can be bought at the Metropolis Records website.