If any of the ancient rock gods still have the strength to lift a quill then surely they will use it to mark 3rd February 2013 down in their dusty scrolls as the day a single green shoot of hope breached the charred, baron musical landscape that has, over the past few decades, become the norm to us mere mortals. I speak, of course, of the day The Virginmarys released their debut album King of Conflict.
“Now hold up there dude,” I hear you say, “that’s a pretty bold statement!” Yes, it is but that makes it none the less justified.
Since the glory days of the 60’s and 70’s, British rock music has tried, and failed, to drag itself back to the top of the mountain. Black Sabbath and The Who have just about kept the fires burning with schedules the cynics might say are just to boost to their pensions (with fans all over the world hoping that their next gig won’t be the musical equivalent of Ali vs Holmes) but the unfathomably powerful force of wanky, pre-packaged, plastic music – brought to you via a lucrative voting system – seems to have left virtually everything else in tatters. And this is where The Virginmarys and their brilliantly conceived twelve-pack come in.
King of Conflict is a record of pure, play-it-hard-and-loud rock. Located roughly in the middle of The Ramones, Zepplin (think more Black Dog, less That’s the Way) and Terrorvision (pre-‘Tequila’), Ally Dickaty (vocals and guitar), Matt Rose (bass) and Danny Dolan (drums) churn out clattering tunes that strike an impressive balance between raucous symphony and controlled violence.
This Macclesfield three-piece have produced a collection of tracks filled with wall after wall of sound – it’s a veritable hailstorm of riffs. In combining this with assured, screamy vocals (like a teenaged Lemmy), striding bass lines and drums treated as punch bags they have made a ridiculously accomplished and consistently enjoyable album.
The lyrics are sharp; not flabby, not over-thought but straight to the point and from the hip – when Dickaty spits his anger at an ex in ‘Just a Ride’ it’s a reaction to rejection, complete with flecks of blood and splinters of teeth, all served on what is probably the album’s best tune, building as it steams along. It is fucking good rock n’ roll.
These are songs that would shrivel and die if they were over-produced or tarted up with fancy effects and performed by spawn of the hit factory. The longest-standing, most authentic and most loved rock bands have always been those that look like they have just got up at 4pm because they were putting pen to paper, pick to string and stick to skin until 6 o’clock that same morning. Filtering inner demons and boozy memories into songs that somehow manage to raise the hands of every scruffy get in the land and simultaneously loosen the ties of office workers plugged into their iPod on the train home. With this album, these lads have staked an early claim to be included with such bands. ‘Portrait of Red’, ‘My Little Girl’, ‘Lost Weekend’ and ‘Out of Mind’ weave tales of drunken debauchery and bad women through a cracking selection of tunes that are absolutely dripping with the sort of hooks, melodies and fist-pumping racket that have fuelled crowds to dangerous levels in sweaty, beery music venues since the advent of electric instruments. It is true, traditional hard rock being dragged into the modern era behind such scream-a-long flag bearers as Bang, Bang, Bang.
This kind of music has, in recent years, taken on the mantle of being a historical reference, a hazy glance back to a couple of decades of stargazing hedonism that only exists in autobiographies and the mumbled anecdotes of those who survived it all. The world just isn’t capable of that kind of lack of responsibility anymore is it? Our fragile, digitally honed, modern-day eardrums don’t have the capacity to withstand something kicked out through a stack amp that has been gleefully encouraged to go up to eleven. There’s a recession on – we must keep focused! We’ve no time to nurture that wilder side of us which, no matter how hard we try to suppress it, will make us throw our arms up and grimace at the person nearest to us when the opening bars of Whole Lotta Love, Back in Black or Ace of Spades erupt into a room!
Bollocks I say! Buy this album, turn it up and let the music do the rest.
If The Virginmarys have proved one thing (other than what a good band they are) with this collection of three minute explosions it is that it is still possible to find people willing to reach into your head and beat your eardrums to a gibbering, giddy pulp. And do you know what; your eardrums will weep tears of joy because they will know that dirty, bluesy, noisy, heavy rock – the good stuff – is by absolutely no means dead.
Long may the Kings of Conflict reign…