By The Smoking Hearts
There's something very oldschool about the particular brand of punk-and-roll meets pub-rock pedalled by The Smoking Hearts. If you like swaggering riffs and vocals you can punch the air to, then 'Pride of Nowhere' is right up your street. Frontman Lethal (possibly not the name on his passport) has a voice that's perfectly poised between the snotty punk of old, and the snarl of modern-era hardcore-punk. The rest of the band serve up a similar fusion of galloping punk with a hard rock swagger, and have a tendency to veer off into classy guitar lines that'll make you want to air guitar along.
The problem is, that once you've heard the first few tracks, you might as well switch 'Pride of Nowhere' off - because you've heard every trick this album has to offer. You have to be paying attention to catch the differences between the songs. 'Shred and Destroy,' 'Juliana Blue,' 'One-Eyed Drunk,' and 'Off The Chain' are slight deviations on a rigid theme, as they lean more towards the punk end of The Smoking Hearts' sound. The pick of the bunch, is the grotty, turbo-charged 'One-Eyed Drunk' which is tossed out with a DIY casualness. It's followed by the headlong plunge of 'Off The Chain,' which is signed with a flourish of classy, hard-rock guitars. Rough-and-ready punk never sounded quite so cool.
'Juliana Blue' keeps speed levels high, whilst serving up a treat for fans of innovative riff-work. The song turns on itself, as the guitars tangle and weave around one another in a manner that's sure to capture the imagination of fellow guitarists. While 'Shred and Destroy' isn't quite as bloodthirsty as its moniker suggests, it mixes things up with bursts of staccato shedding, giving this track a manic gleam in its eye.
There's also a crop of songs designed to get you down the front at the next The Smoking Hearts show. The charmingly entitled 'Thrashb4Gash' is one big, chest-beating shout-along that was made for some serious call-and-response crowd action. The bone-headed fun of that roar-along chorus is driven home by a walloping drum line and a thick, meaty chug of guitars. 'Thrashb4Gash' is guaranteed to make any The Smoking Hearts show go with a bang! 'Thundersludge' has a similarly bear-soaked bellow of a chorus that'll have you giving some serious thought to setting up a Ticketmaster Alert on these guys. But then, there's 'Give Em The Suit,' where The Smoking Hearts labour too hard after the shout-along, and end up repeating the same line over and over again, until it verges on the annoying. It's a shame, as when 'Give Em The Suit' isn't trying far, far too hard, it's awash with punkish energy and an uncomplicated, goodtimes rock 'n roll vibe.
Also making a play for the live arena, is 'Blood Money.' This song sticks rigidly to the punk 'n roll formula the rest of the album slavishly adheres to, and would be unmemorable if it wasn't for a mid-section where the guitars drop away, leaving just a throbbing drumbeat. You can almost hear the hands clapping along, before the guitars kick back in.
The rest of the album, is exactly like all the above, only without the standout moments. 'Daddy's Little Disaster' and 'George Street Wrestling' are heads-down rock 'n roll monsters that thunder along, flinging out the occasional, stylishly oldschool riff, and are good fun if you like your pub rock with a modern tweak. 'Stab Twist Kill' and 'Message in a Molotov' are speedy, punchy, punk-orientated tracks stuffed with throaty vocals and slick guitar flourishes. The problem is, that we've already heard The Smoking Hearts turn out this exact same sort of song - and make a slightly better job of it.
Each song on 'Pride of Nowhere,' taken on its own, is a suckerpunch of unpolished guitars. But, taken as a whole, this album begins to sound like the same song, re-hashed in thirteen different ways. An album best experienced in chunks.