There are many ways I could’ve started this review. There are many things I could say about Wayward Sons and their music, but the one I plumped for in the end was this:
Towards the middle of “The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be” there is a track called “Feel Good Hit”. Catchy social conscience, with a brilliant hook, and a chorus you can hum in about 30 seconds.
It’s what they do.
Then, right at the end of the track, Toby Jepson hits one of those notes. Anyone who heard “Radical Your Lover” in the summer of 1990 will go “yeah, boy, Tobe is back!”
That’s kinda what Wayward Sons represents to me – and maybe others too? They are the band that Tony Jepson put together to go back to rock n roll again. Yes, he’s a Producer, songwriter, manager whatever he is, but to me, he’s one of the finest frontmen we’ve ever had.
The way I was going to start this review was like this. In the first verse of the album, he sings this: “Won’t you plug me into saccharine, can’t let the well run dry” and yet, there is nothing artificial about the man. I always wonder if he ever truly got what The Little Angels meant to blokes my age. They were our boys. Not much older than us, what they sang about it got us, and that “Don’t Prey For Me” record got me through a horrible period when as a 14 year old I lost my Gran and experienced grief for the first time.
I saw Jepson open for FM a few years ago. He arrived at the venue at the same time as me. Parked by me, actually, in a totally ordinary car. I said something inane like: “I’ll bet Keith Richards gets to Stones gigs like that!” His reply: “well the kids have to go to school, somehow.” Stuck with me.
Saccharine my arse.
Wayward Sons proved on album number one that they were superb – and actually watching them live since has made me love the album more – but on this one, they sound better. And more varied.
“As Black As Sin” is a prime example. Sam Wood on guitar marked himself out as special on “The Ghosts Of Yet To Come” and does so here again, but the piano of Dave Kemp makes “Joke’s On You” one from the very top draw. Sounding like both Bruce Springsteen and Thin Lizzy all before the first chorus is guaranteed to get bonus points, and this does.
Proudly wearing its influences on its sleeve throughout, there is a 70s touch to “Little White Lies” somewhere between ELO and The Beatles, “Fade Away” does Bowie-esque glam pretty well, building slowly, and mention here too for the rhythm section of Phil Martini (recently raved about on these pages with Down N Outz) and Nic Wastell.
Not that this is retro, though. “Have It Your Own” is typical. It is rooted in the classics, but with a freshness, while the thought that this is insanely catchy, is all over the album, but never better than “Long Line Of Pretenders” which takes modern politics and makes it fun. No mean feat. I am assuming here – and I reckon I might be right – that the worst Prime Minister we’ve ever had takes a kicking here.
“(If Only) God Was Real” has an arena shaking, Sterophonics type vibe, and destroys organised religion in three minutes, while the title track has a real riff, and dismisses the whole “fake news” phenomenon with a real sneer.
“Punchline” is proof that even in the “deep cuts” here there is no filler, and the slower, “Us Against The World” is proudly blue collar, and the way it builds is a real mark of class.
The feeling that this is a genuine throwback to the good old days, is felt too, by the fact that there is a “hidden track” here. Sort of anyway, as good as you can get in these days of streaming and such. Whatever, “Totally Screwed” is somewhere close to punk, and deals with the confusion of being middle aged in 2019. See Toby Jepson is still our boy, he still writes songs we can relate to. Well, the socialists amongst us, anyway…..
That said, even if you aren’t balding, 44 years old socialist, you’ll love Wayward Sons for as long as you love rock n roll.
And that is no lie.