Back in 2005, CR writer John Saleeby joked that all the old rock gods should quit songwriting and all the young guns should give up on ever having their own career – instead, Justin Hawkins should write for Leppard, Weezer for Cheap Trick and young bucks like The Answer should concentrate on writing for Coverdale or Aerosmith.
The Answer: Revival
Third album major-label debut, do-or-die time for County Down rockers.
You could argue that the intervening years have suggested that the reverse would work better: that Tyler, Perry, Jagger, Richards, Page and Plant should be dispatched to the Saga Songwriting Cruiseship and tasked with writing songs for the younger bands. The kids, after all, are struggling to write the modern equivalents of The Boys Are Back In Town or Sweet Home Alabama, but can at least sing them in the key intended and play a two hour set without falling off the stage and putting their backs out.
The Answer’s problem is not that they can’t write a song. Strip back the guitars on Can’t Remember, Can’t Forget and it could be a hit for Cher, Evanescence or any X Factor finalist, so finely does it tease, build and climax in a sticky, anthemic mess. It’s not alone. Despite a toe-curling title that’s one-part Manic Street Preachers to one-part David Brent, Nowhere Freeway is irresistible, an AOR Born To Run, shot through with dead-end romanticism and bolstered by Saint Jude’s Lynne Jackaman on guest vocals.
Vida juggles Walk This Way-style scat vocals, a solo worthy of Slash and a nagging ‘na-na-na’ hook that’ll worm it’s way into your lug ’oles and still be there when you wake tomorrow. Waste Your Tears, Use Me and Trouble, meanwhile, make for a blazing opening trio: groovy, ferocious and catchy.
There are dips – Tornado, Lights Are Down and the over-wrought gospel of One More Revival all fail to be more than the sum of their parts – but Revival is a triumph, the band’s best album so far. So why only seven out of 10? Because The Answer have yet to bring anything new to the party. Revival displays their skill, but not their spark.
Musician and music critic Carrie Brownstein wrote recently about wanting more ‘mystery’ back in music: in the age of Twitter, Facebook and meet-and-greets, she said, “we need there to be more elements to the music and to the musicians that leave me wondering: ‘Where did this come from?’ And sometimes, I want the answer to be that I might not ever know.”
We know where The Answer are from, what they listen to and where their heart lies. But when are they gonna bamboozle us?