'Power' by Tattoo MollyReview
As promised in my review of the teaser single "Black Sheep", Tattoo Molly's debut studio album, ‘Power' is going to be released on November 10th, so it's high time to tell you a little about that mothership.
In addition to the lead single, the tracks are "Damn Man", "Blue Collar Blues", "Back In The Swing", "Sick Of The Attitude", "High Noon Saloon", "Outta Luck", "Contraband" and a live version of "Nail In The Coffin"
That the proceeds from "Black Sheep" went to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation tells us all that this is a band with heart who add that extra layer onto the musicianship and to be honest, that's a key criterion for me to give their music a listen in the first place.
To be honest, one of the other things which usually kicks in before I even get to hear an artist's music are the titles: of course there are very many fine tunes which bear the same names as other artists have used, but when you glance at the album sleeve & some or all of them leap out at you, that piques my interest for sure.
And so we come to the actual tracks. This is heavy rock, but not some ponderous, plodding form wherein you know exactly what's inevitably coming next. There's a robust if not mighty sound here, but played with a nimbleness & dexterity which do leave capacity for surprises. In fact, and this is another of my touchstones: there is music which swings on this record and again, that's not something I automatically associate with the genre (I think drummer Adam Gostick is presumably the main agent in this aspect). That they have a track with the word in its name may be a clue or reference: or simply a neat coincidence.
As for the other band members, singer Sam Wise is one of those fortunate individuals like Robert Plant who can hit unexpectedly high registers without apparent strain or loss of power and vary his approach as each song demands. Dan O'Brien on bass offers not only constantly mutating & interesting underpinning to his colleagues but takes the initiative on several occasions & leads them in directions he feels would benefit songs. As guitarist, James Pilling has plenty of opportunity to not only shine but shape tracks & he takes full advantage of this, displaying an impressive range of styles, sounds and approaches which keep the songs individual and our attention upon them. As noted below, he seems well versed in so many genres and has the ability to channel them at will.
The other act of equilibrium I admire in ‘Power' is that while the sense of writing songs about things they actually care about elevates the album way above those dismal ones I sometimes have to sit through where the tracks are really just songs for the sake of writing songs, their ability to keep a light touch amidst the thunder means that there is humour here too. Obviously it's a balancing feat: too much levity & people won't appreciate how committed you are: too little & you are left with one of those humourless, self-important collections which again, really alienates me. They took quite a high risk route in getting this right & not only do I feel they succeeded, but again it helps lift up the album to a higher level of esteem (certainly mine).
"High Noon Saloon" is arguably the track where they cut themselves most loose: for once deserting 2023's Britain for a setting somewhere between the historical and the fantastic, they are free to go a bit more over the top with instruments and voice: indeed were they intending to create something people might call "a bit deranged" then they succeeded.
It helps lighten the mood and ensure that the album contains a decent palette of light & shade: as a good album perhaps needs to. You know already of "Black Sheep" but tracks like the howling "Sick of the Attitude" or the magnificent & frankly epic "Outta Luck" don't leave much opportunity for joking either being almost weary (with a defiance in places) look round the State of the Nation and not finding things to smile about. The latter I imagine will be a key live moment and possibly a signature tune at least for this stage in their career.
If "Outta Luck" is stand-out in many respects, "Blue Collar Blues" may be the manifesto track on ‘Power'. Sharing a name and topic with the classic rockabilly track by Billy Lee Riley, it shares none of that song's lightness: this is a reflection of the lifelong grind of labour coupled with a sense of being taken for granted let alone exploited. This is angry & the defiance is there: as is an opening sample of considerable scene setting power. This I suppose is prime Springsteen territory but though the similarities to the experiences of the New Jersey workforce bring his classics to life for us, the differences form a small cultural barrier. Tattoo Molly therefore have created this compressed, seething polemical for the British side.
"Contraband" sits nicely with it: being a tense paranoid account of the protagonist of "Blue Collar Blues" (or one of his associates) having fraught encounters with the forces (literally) of law & order.
I rather like the unusual move of putting in a live track: pretty much every time I write about albums which sound like they'd work well in concert; I end up speculating how they'd come across. Tattoo Molly have spared me that & what we learn is that not only would they work well, but the studio tracks so reflect the live one that you have to applaud them for the recording & production process: there really is little to distinguish them in terms of clarity & power (which I suppose may go some way to explaining the choice of title).
This great album will please heavy rock fans as it certainly is very weighty & played at appropriate volumes will give them all they would wish for. However there is so much detailed diversity in there that I'm not sure that too many of the accepted conventions are adhered to very much: "Damn Man" alone comes very close to Black Sabbath (which it does very well I might say) and the actually instrumental & vocal contributions seem to pay tribute to a whole range of genres, which Tattoo Molly have co-opted into what they wish to do.
The album launch is at The Tin on Saturday 11th November (not at Square One as originally advertised) with support from The Rollocks and Strip Search Tramp