This year’s Schenkerfest album was perhaps a shot in the arm for not just the guitarist himself, but for the three singers involved in it. Each one had a few songs to shine and Graham Bonnet (the G in MSG with Michael Schenker) was amongst them.
And crikey, if he sounded invigorated on them, then he seems positively sparky here. Possibly, the clues are in the title. “Meanwhile, Back In The Garage” conjures up all kinds of images of bands that are full of youthful fire and us-against- the-world spirit and for most of the 13 tracks here, that is exactly how they sound.
The title track opens things to set the tone, and there is a touch of Deep Purple-cum-UFO about this. Bonnet sounds a little like Phil Mogg when he spits the line about “hopes can be killed, sure as black is black”.
“The Hotel” is, pure and simple a glorious heavy metal song. Twin guitars abound and it has the spirit of the dreamers, seeing itself as something of an anthem for those that are “locked in the prison cell” of a 9-5, and it is perhaps the first example of the slightly overbearing delivery that Bonet uses to propel the songs.
As well as the feeling of power metal – as it were – that pervades this, there are some real crunchy melodies. “Living In Suspicion” is a wonderful example of this and it is probably the best thing here. You could imagine Thunder, say, singing this and it really is superior hard rock.
There’s also a couple on here that have lyrics that jar. “Incest Outcest USA” deals with some kind of cult, and is an uneasy listen, as is “Long Island Tea” which combines an almost Dream Theater vibe with a take on racism that is thought-provoking.
“The House” is slower, slinkier, but doesn’t half sound like a Bruce Dickinson solo record, particularly in the chorus, the more epic, brooding qualities of “Sea Of Trees” are topped off with a fine solo and a sense of foreboding in its “just do it” harmonies. “Man On The Corner” meanwhile, is thunderous and bombastic. It is followed – for some reason – with a cover of “We Don’t Need Another Hero” which is neither.
Far better is “America, Where Have You Gone” which for all its idealism is a superb song – and one which would have fitted well on that aforementioned Schenker album. And “Heading Towards The Light” has a Led Zep flavour amongst its interesting melody.
“Past Lives” in many ways sums the whole thing up. On one hand, a heads down, headbanger, but then when you delve deeper it’s about a ten-year old kid discussing his previous existence. If nothing else, Bonnet deserves credit for stretching himself like this, and also for finishing things with something a little more tender, in the shape of the acoustic tinges of “The Crying Chair” which has the feel of a Magnum song.
To be fair to “….Garage” it, is a record that needs a few listens. The lyrics and the way they are delivered are both, perhaps not conventional, but it makes for an interesting combination. It is a record that Bonnet needed perhaps to make, but more than that, could have only come from him.