By Pride Tiger
There seems to be renewed interest in the classic rock genre at the moment, and Pride Tiger are one of many modern bands specialising in a decidedly oldschool sound. While there's a very real danger of this sort of music sounding dated, Pride Tiger's 70's influenced classic rock has enough contemporary twists to keep it sounding relevant.
Album-opener 'Let 'em Go' has more angular riffs than you'd perhaps expect from the genre, and frontman Matt Wood has a yelpy, kooky voice that wouldn't sound out of place on a modern indie song. Consequently, 'Let 'em Go' is a solid, Thin Lizzy-aping track with updated vocals and guitars that occasionally sound more awkward-indie than classic rock. However, ultimately 'Let 'em Go' fails to ignite, because its repetitive lyrics don't make a play for the listener's imagination.
This is also the case with 'A Long Way Down (Shine).' Musically, this is a fresh and exciting take on an old sound. It even features a cowbell. While cowbell-studded classic rock may sound like a musical nightmare, it actually emphasises the off-kilter nature of those riffs, giving 'A Long Way...' a ramshackle, clunky, classic rock stomp. It'd be an album highlight, if the lyrics didn't leave so much to be desired.
To say 'A Long Way..' lacks lyrical punch is an understatement. For the chorus, frontman Matt Wood keeps trotting out the song's title, with the occasional "whoa!" thrown in for good measure - and that's it. Even worse, Pride Tiger loop the chorus at the end of the song, so we get almost a whole minute of "whoa! / it's a long way down / whoa!" 'A Long Way...' is a quirky piece of music that Pride Tiger fail to make proper use of.
'Forget Everything' is another song where the lyrics fall flat. True, Pride Tiger may really push the boat out with a chorus that consists of a whole three lines, but one of those lines is the song's title, and there's a one-word difference between the other two. Consequently, it's difficult to get emotionally involved in this song, as the lyrics aren't expressing anything more than vague sentiments.
However, the lyrics aren't all bad. The pub rock of 'The White Witch Woman Blues' has a beery, sing-along chorus of the kind we don't see enough of in contemporary music, and the album's most upbeat offerings, 'No One's Listening' and 'The Lucky Ones,' also benefit from their lyrical content.
'No One's Listening' is the most buoyant of the two tracks, with lyrics that are nothing short of euphoric and an undercurrent of bright, rattling chords that ensure the whole thing is fizzing with energy. Pride Tiger wisely prevent things from becoming too twee with shades of heavier riffing. Whether those riffs are crackling, chugging or reverberating in long, slow waves, it's these darker touches that prevent 'No One's Listening' from becoming cloyingly sweet.
The equally sunny lyrics of title track 'The Lucky Ones' put the final sheen on the song's infectious jangle and spring-heeled drumbeats, making this one track that's guaranteed to get you moving. This also seems to be what 'What It Is' is striving for, as the guitars flutter about and strike purposefully 'duff' notes, giving the song a playful, erratic energy. 'What It Is' is a clap-your-hands-and-dance piece of funked-up classic rock.
The cowbell that worked so well on 'A Long Way Down (Shine)' makes a reappearance on 'It's Only You.' Again, it emphasises the juddery quality of the song's underlying rhythms.
Beyond those clunky, cowbell-trimmed guitars, the verses are the perfect coming together of the two sides of Pride Tiger's personality: the stylishly oldschool and the modern quirkiness. Alternating between a combination of poised drumbeats and an unobtrusive, bass throb; and bursts of shunting riffs, Pride Tiger once again deliver contemporary, 70's inspired rock.
'A New Jones' seizes your attention right from the opening notes, as some tormented-sounding slide guitar is wrenched back and forth across a bouncing, country-inspired acoustic refrain. Whenever Pride Tiger return to this great hook - and they do, frequently - you'll find yourself paying just that little bit more attention. But, if one killer hook isn't enough, Pride Tiger treat us to a pre-chorus guitar wail that stretches across that same rollicking, acoustic country refrain.
'A New Jones' also has an infectious, jittery energy, thanks to some intricate fret work. Elsewhere, we get the Pride Tiger staples of jangly drums and riffs that chug and chug, and then open up into long, classy notes. This song is the tried-and-tested Pride Tiger formula, with brilliant added extras.
The same can just about be said for 'Sweet Dreams,' which narrowly manages to avoid blurring into the rest of the album. This is largely thanks to an attention grabbing introduction of a bass line overlaid with scrappy, squealy chords, but it also owes something to outbursts of dizzy riffs that'll send your head into a brief spin. On the negative, Matt Wood tries his hand at some jazzy "bah-bah-da-bah" vocals that are so slick, they're actually pretty irritating. But, on the whole, 'Sweet Dreams' will leave a vaguely positive impression, even if it isn't quite memorable enough to earn repeat listens.
'56 Days' may be at the tail end of the track listing, but it's a last minute contender for the title of album highlight. Supported by some sassy hand-clapping beats, and a marching drum roll that'll get you riled up for the chorus, '56 Days' has the urgency and enthusiasm that much of this album is lacking. The chorus is particularly dramatic, as Matt Wood makes a play for those big, emotionally-charged high notes, backed up by plenty of wailing guitars and classy riffing. Even the verses have a stylish swagger that'll keep you riveted until that chorus kicks in again. '56 Days' is how the whole of the album should have sounded.
Pride Tiger's debut is frustrating, as although there's nothing technically wrong with it, listening to the album back-to-back is likely to test your attention span. There's a drama and energy that's frequently absent from the songs. There are a handful of good tracks here, '56 Days,' 'A New Jones' and 'No One's Listening' are all worth a listen but, unfortunately, although 'The Lucky Ones' is consistently pretty good, it's never exceptional, and is lacking that one stand out song that'll make you want to rave about this album.