GSTV’s continental correspondent sounds off on Belfast blues rockers The Answer and three other bands you need to hear
By the Mad Dog
The Mad Dog was in Paris recently to see Belfast blues rockers, The Answer, on the penultimate night of their European tour. Formed in 2000 and touted on their recording debut in 2005 as “the best new UK band since Led Zeppelin,” The Answer are the real deal sporting the purists’ line-up of guitar (Paul Mahon), bass (Mickey Waters), drums (James Heatley) and voice (Cormac Neeson).
Following the release of their fourth album, New Horizons, The Answer combine an energy which grabs you by the throat and throws you against the wall with an intimacy that reminds you these are just four young lads from Belfast who produce classic rock in the best ’70s tradition. As if needing any excuse, the night of the gig was Mahon’s birthday and as a gift to us, they joined us in the bar afterwards and explained that they’d be winging their way over to the States in 2014. If you’re looking for answers in any aspect of your life, take time to see these guys – they are a truly fantastic rock band. (Really poor seque here but do you know why the mod movement didn’t ever take off in Belfast ? Who would want to walk around that city with a target on their back ? Ba-bum….don’t forget to tip your waitress).
So, having come away exhilarated – again – by The Answer’s super honest standard-bearing for meaty riffs, a back line suggesting Heatley and Waters were playing together when they were in diapers and vocals which are simultaneously Plant-ish and at times so smooth you could spread them on toast, I was once more troubled by something.
The Trabendo in Paris holds around 700 people and it was a little more than half full. The tickets weren’t expensive. The Answer aren’t new kids on the block (no pun intended). Their four albums thus far don’t deviate much from the classic rock median – what they do ain’t broke and it don’t need no fixin’. They supported the AC/DC Black Ice worldwide romp for 412 days (the title of the CD/DVD album package which documents that experience and is well worth getting). And yet, you can usually still walk up and get a ticket for their gig thirty minutes before show time.
There is currently a plethora of new, young bands which espouse that classic rock sound and are top, top quality – here’s your homework….do check them all out, if you haven’t already – The Temperance Movement, The Holy Goats, Buffalo Killers, Saint Jude, Blackberry Smoke, Blind Atlas, Howlin’ Rain, Alberta Cross, The Cadillac Three, Dirt River Radio, Alfa 9, The Truth and Salvage Company, Free Energy, The Jokers, Beware of Darkness, Blackwater James……the list goes on – and they are all playing to far smaller audiences than their music deserves.
So, here’s my issue – what do these bands have to do really make it ? The Answer’s performance in Paris (but honestly, any of the 5 or 6 times I’ve seen them) begs a load of questions. Will we ever again witness a band as big as Zeppelin and others became in the ’70s and GnR in the 80s ? Is the music consumer of today somehow less loyal to a given band or genre of music ? Does he/she have a shorter attention span because of being bombarded with new music from hundreds of sources ? Do bands like these need to commercialize themselves ? Must they write their own “Highway to Hell” or “Walk This Way” in order to achieve the airplay ? Is the music business more competitive than ever before ? The Darkness layered a soprano voice, spandex and gimmickry over some powerfully delivered songs and nutty antics to achieve arena stardom (followed, of course, by the traditional collapse due to excess substance-quaffing and subsequent revival and rehabilitation). I love those guys to bits but not every band can (or indeed, wants to) “Spinal Tap” it up to get noticed.
Just before I get off my soapbox, check out the following artists – bands that either had very brief lifespans or have just never received the recognition they deserved (yet)……but produced fantastic output.
From Austin, Texas – Fastball…..more hook than Peter Pan’s nemesis and some of the best songwriting since the Beatles. They had marginal success with The Way in the late ’90s and issued new single “Love Comes In Waves” in April 2013 but check out “Morning Star” and “I Get High” – brilliant stuff.
From the same city, featuring Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton along with drummer, Chris Layton, and bassist, Tommy Shannon, from SRV’s band, Double Trouble, The Arc Angels‘ self-titled debut album from 1992 is a little-known gem. Check out “Always Believed In You” and “Paradise Cafe” and find the album.
Finally, another of those play to the end albums – the only one by the gloriously-named Poets and Pornstars (careful when you google that one). I saw them administer a decent back-side kicking as support to Bon Jovi in about 2005. Rather bizarrely, lead singer Hal Ozsan returned to full-time acting in 2008 and has appeared in Dawson’s Creek, 90210 and a slew of movies and soaps…..wish he’d stayed a poet (or pornstar)!
Let this be a warning to us all – if we become complacent and don’t support this splendid new wave of brilliant classic rock bands, we risk losing some serious talent to the likes of General Hospital !
That would feel like a rubber band wrapped tightly around the Mad Dog’s testicles – don’t let it happen !!