The kings of British rock are back again
You know, being a Thunder fan over the last 27 years hasn’t been that hard.
They’ve written ten albums prior to “Rip It Up”, most of them have been superb and a couple are copper bottomed classics. Their live shows are always amongst the best you ever see and even the times when they’ve called it a day – and there have been many – have been like finishing with the girl you know loves you and won’t delete your number from her phone so you just wait for them to come back.
“Rip It Up” is the second into the latest comeback, the follow-up to the brilliant “Wonder Days” collection and adheres to the same ethos as that one did. Namely that Thunder have a sound, but they are not AC/DC and don’t have to slavishly follow the same path.
“….Days” saw them take some real chances, pushing the music into some places they just hadn’t been before, on “….Up” they do the same. Perhaps because they are better musicians, perhaps just because they are older (maybe wiser too?), but whatever it is, there is a definite feel that “Rip It Up” is absolutely the best record they could have made now.
This Devil may care attitude extends to the lyrics of the first song – “No One Gets Out Alive” is a plea to seize the day – is not the music. It is very much “classic” Thunder. You can imagine frontman Danny Bowes singing this one as first song on the upcoming UK tour, dancing as only Danny does while simultaneously requesting that the assembled throng “clap your hands”.
The title track, which follows, is more a glam rock infused thing. Stomping about like a turbo-charged T-Rex, and boasting a chorus that is envy of pretty much all their peers.
Suitably revved up and ready to go, the five are off and running now. “She Loves The Cocaine” offers a dirty guitar sound and is a condemnation of the party scene that they’ve done before, and whilst “Right From The Start” is a massive ballad, it is done differently to the ones they’ve done before, with a blues tinge to its acoustics, and one of the other slower numbers “Heartbreak Hurricane” falls into this category too.
Which essentially is the key to this. This is a very much a Thunder record, it’s just a slightly re-calibrated one. “Shakedown” gets Cowbell bonus points – and yes it does sound like “I Love You More Than Rock N Roll” – but its chorus is right up there with the heaviest things they’ve ever done and “In Another Life” (which to these ears has echoes of Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet” from all those years ago) is a bass heavy, mournful piece, which like many benefits from clever use of keyboards. It’s organ use in particular is incredible.
“The Chosen One” likewise sees Ben Matthews underrated skills come to the fore, and “The Enemy Inside” with its gargantuan drums from Harry James will chime with anyone who is, let’s say, old enough to know better, while “Tumbling Down” is exactly what British Rock should be – this is the one perhaps, that could have been on any Thunder album from “Back Street Symphony” onwards.
It ends with one that actually couldn’t have been. But it ends with the one that probably sums up Thunder in 2017 better than any other. “There Is Always A Loser” has everything. Fine musicianship, clever lyrics, and more ambition than a band at this stage of the careers has any right to. But it still sounds like the band that everyone loves.
Getting on for three decades into things, most bands would take it easy. There’d be a record with a couple of good songs on and a whole load of filler. No one gave Thunder that memo. “Rip It Up” sounds fresh, vital and wonderful, but crucially belongs in their back catalogue and no one else’s.