Usher in the brand new age with one who knows
It might be less than two minutes long, but there’s a song called “Dropping The Needle” just after the halfway point of “The Age Of Absurdity” that holds the key to not just the whole record, but arguably to Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons themselves.
“It’s my addiction,” sings Neil Starr – the only non-Campbell in this here bunch. “It’s your addiction,” he offers. And what, you may ask is this illicit substance. The next line explains all with absolute glee: “It’s rock n roll….”
And the fact that it is “in the blood” (another lyric in the song as it happens) is surely what drove Phil Campbell to gather together his family members – Todd joins the old man on guitar, Tyla on bass and a final son, Dane on drums – and get back on the horse after Motorhead stopped.
30 odd years in the loudest and arguably most rock n roll band on the planet could, after all, have seen Campbell head for the rocking chair and his memories. That he hasn’t, however, is something to be grateful for, because the 12 songs here are absolutely incredible.
Admirably, they don’t sound much like Motorhead at all – Christ, whoever could? – rather they tread the line between modern hard rock and classic sounding fayre quite magnificently.
That said, there is a little bit of his former band about the brilliant opener “Ringleader”, that is, until Starr steals the show, delivering the aggression of the lyrics (“another criminal, reaching the pinnacle, not sure how much more we can take”) with all the panache of an arena rocker.
As if to prove that is no fluke, “Freak Show” follows and amounts to a hard rock masterclass, hook, groove, melody, it’s got it all – and make no mistake, it is far from the only one.
“Skin And Bones” is a thumping affair (think Corrosion of Conformity when they were in “Clean My Wounds” mood) but Dane’s drumming is straight out of the thrash metal playbook – if this is heavy rock, then it’s packing.
They are, however, a versatile bunch of bastards too. “Gypsy Kiss” is built around a bassline that recalls The Wildhearts in their pomp, and is nothing more than a middle finger in the air to everyone who doubted them. It broods with a real menace at points, never more than on “Welcome To Hell” which almost dares you to cross it, while the bluesy “Dark Days” with its harmonica is happy to stay in the swamp.
“Step Into The Fire” has a devil may care air, “if you hate me,” Starr points out, “at least you’ll feel something” and “Get On Your Knees” cheerfully opines “spare me the striptease, its not the 80s” and is even more fun than it sounds.
“The Age Of Absurdity” is a record with barely anything weak about it, and it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with half measures, “High Rule” absolutely slams in its chorus, and while it doesn’t have any truck with ballads either, there is something a little more genteel about it’s last song, “Into The Dark”.
Easy to imagine on, say a Thunder record, it ends a record that is frequently stunning, and includes a the final one of many wonderful solos that punctuate the tracks throughout.
Rock n roll might be an addition to everyone here, but the thing about addiction’s, though, is they can be kicked only if you want to kick them, and Campbell ain’t anywhere near done yet. He’s kept it going, and kept it in the family. And he’s got what will be one of the finest hard rock records of the year to prove it was the right decision.