Straight Razor Angels specialise in the raw, heady thrill that is straight up Rock N Roll. Dredging for Pleasure is the second full length album by the Barnsley trio, and is more than suitably loud and brash for a band boasting a singer named Vegas. Riding the wave of the old school rock revival, but taking in a sound that undoubtedly has more roots in the classic blues of Howlin’ Wolf and BB King than any other band in the current rock crop, Dredging for Pleasure is a visceral thrill ride designed to maim and pulverize.
They don’t do pleasentries. “Fuck you teeth and a GG bust” is the opening lyrical salvo on ‘Black Swan, and that’s about as romantic as it gets. Vegas’ vocals snarl and growl, sounding like Captain Beefheart gurgling sulphuric acid, and the guitars fight for space in the mix, one layer of distortion heaped on top of the next, leaving you no respite and no place to hide.
Even with all this bravado there is still a clear sense of musical lineage in SRA’s sound. The aforementioned blues influence is ever present, with the king of them all, Robert Johnson, (you know, the one who sold his soul to the devil) even getting a namecheck on ‘Killing Time,’ eliminating all doubt as to where and to whom the Angels’ musical debt is owed.
The great thing about Dredging… is that the advantages of over half a century of technological and musical developments since the birth of the blues mean this debt is a springboard to a new dimension rather than something to be held in reverence. This is a much grittier, denser sonic world then Robert Johnson could have managed. The ultra-distorted harmonica solo on ‘M.O.T.B’ is a fine example, taking a blues tradition, playing with it, twisting it out of shape and rendering it unrecognisable.
It’s true there’s not much in the way of variety on Dredging…, with everything running at a similar mid to high tempo (except the growling & grooving final track ‘Stay Where You Are’, possibly the album’s highlight) and blasting your face off with ultra heavy compression. But the sheer confrontational nature of it all, both musically and lyrically, chastises you for wanting a let up in intensity. This is Rock N Roll, not a day out at the seaside. This is 40 minutes of turn it up to 11 and let yourself be hit around the head until you can’t see straight. If you want pleasure, you’re going to have to go dredging for it.