There are certain bands who just exude rock ‘n’ roll spirit in everything they do. One of those bands is Orange Goblin, a band whose name has become legendary. Hard on their heels come Grifter, the Plymouth based band who first appeared on SonicAbuse’s radar with their stunning debut for Ripple, ‘the simplicity of the riff is key’ and whom have, since then, carved a path around the UK, bringing their awesome sound to festivals and venues across the country. A band who live by their words, Grifter don’t try to reinvent the wheel, rather they focus and distil all the best elements of rock ‘n’ roll in to a brew so potent, if you were to drink it you’d instantly grow an almighty beard and develop the guitar playing skills of Hendrix.
The album opens with ‘black gold’, a hard hitting slab of rock that is played fast and loose, like vintage Sabbath, and infused with the sort of sneering attitude that brings to mind images of Sid Vicious and Lemmy. With its wild-eyed cry of “top of the morning to you” and gritty, massively overdriven guitars, ‘black gold’ is a simple, brilliantly heavy, pleasure that makes you want to leap from your seat and punch the air. It must be something in the water too, because second track ‘she mountain’ is no less invigorating. A taut groove machine that crams the lascivious nature of vintage Aerosmith into a box alongside Iommi riffs and Kyuss drums, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a lock-in at the local ale bar with its bruising bass and thunderous riffs all packing one hell of a punch. Hell, I thought I liked grifter before, but this may in fact be love…
Bollocks. It is love. Kicking off ‘paranoic blues’ with slide guitar and filtered vocals, Grifter deliver the sort of slinky, heavy-ass blues that had Led Zeppelin shaking the very foundations of the earth all those years ago and I’ll be damned if it sounds any less awesome now. If this album was a three track EP, I‘d be lying on the floor dribbling slightly and typing ‘buy it’ over and over again, but with more to come I have to at least try to make it through without my brain imploding and so we’re on to the album’s single, ‘Princess Leia’, a near perfect slab of Star-Wars-loving hard rock that may actually be even better than the first three songs, an event about as likely as Boris Johnson growing an afro and fronting a working class revolution, but there it is. In all honesty I can’t pin down exactly what it is that makes me rave about Grifter in this way. It defies analysis and I won’t bore you by trying here – there’s just something timeless about the way the band plug in, and blaze out riffs that function as a sort of ‘best of’ for my whole record collection. That, and the fact that the band live and breathe the music they make, makes a Grifter record an intrinsically exciting rock ‘n’ roll event that captures me whole, and ‘the return of the bearded brethren’ is surely the band’s best effort yet – no mean feat, as you’ll know if you’ve already fallen under the band’s hirsute spell. ‘Bow down to the monkey’ is a sludgy, primal beast with a low down groove and a ton of attitude and then ‘braggard’s boast’ comes surging in as if someone took Josh Homme, filled him full of illicit substances and sent him staggering into an AC/DC concert in search of flesh. Get over that wild pairing and you’re into ‘it’s not me, it’s you’, a Sabbath-esque slab of heavy ass metal that steals a glam stomp from god knows where and marches straight through the room like Mark Bolan on steroids. Kicked off with a brutal bass line, ‘fire water’ is pure stoner joy, setting the blood pumping with its killer riffs and claims of blistered fingers from gripping the whiskey glass to tight. The title track, with its thunderous percussion and full-blooded assault sees the album drawing to a close on a massive high, whilst the actual concluding track, a raucous, yet faithful, cover of Sabbath’s ‘Fairies wear boots’ sees the band closing the disc with a love letter to one of their own inspirations.
Before getting set to write this review I’d planned not to rave too much about Grifter, but this is a band for whom superlatives were invented. Like Orange Goblin, Grifter simply revel in the primitive power of classic rock and metal and the result is never less than a joyous celebration of the almighty riff. There are no bells and whistles here. No stupid production flourishes or pretentious claims to be the saviours of rock ‘n’ roll. Grifter understand that the only thing that matters is to plug in and play from the heart, and this they do each and every time. There is not a hint of artifice, just ten crushing blasts of heavy ass rock that makes you want to scream and shout and run around like a lunatic. This is what rock music should be – primal and raw and laced with humour and a love for the genre – and ‘return of the bearded brethren’ is everything I want from a rock album. Did I mention already that you should buy this album? No? Get to it!