ALBUM REVIEW: Booze & Glory – Hurricane (Scarlett Teddy Records)
Formed in London in 2009, the multi-national street-punk band Booze & Glory have unleashed their fifth studio album, and it’s one which I suspect will divide their growing fanbase right down the middle.
From their beginnings as an out-and-out Oi! band they have attracted a skinhead following, but an ever-changing line-up has seen the band’s sound and audience change too. For while they still play it loud and hard, they’re not just rabble rousers any more, and while they’re still flying the flag for working class rock ‘n’ roll, this seems like a deliberate attempt to broaden their appeal.
Their first three albums – Always On The Wrong Side (2010), Trouble Free (2011) and As Bold As Brass (2014) – were essential listening for fans of bootboy rock’n’roll. But there was a seismic shift on album number four, 2017’s appropriately-titled Chapter IV, where at times they sounded more like the Dropkick Murphys than an Oi! band.
Their star continued to rise last year, when readers of Vive Le Rock magazine voted for them as 2018’s Best New Band.
But the two songs showcased on YouTube prior to the album’s release – Live It Up and Too Soon – suggested this might be a very different record indeed, even though their message remains one of positivity and hope, and living life for today.
Frontman Mark remains at the core of the band, which has always had an international flavour, with past and present members hailing from Poland, Italy, Spain, France, England, Ireland, Sweden and Greece.
Hurricane is certainly the biggest and boldest album Booze & Glory have made, and while songs about believing in yourself, finding common ground and standing up to racism, nationalism and hate are most welcome in these divisive times, another wind of change has blown through the band’s trademark sound.
I approached this album ‘blind’, without reading the notes or even looking at the song titles on first listen, and though Mark’s vocals are instantly recognisable, it’s almost like listening to a different band.
First track Never Again immediately disorientates by opening with an organ, but it quickly turns into a typically boisterous number urging the listener to “Take down your flag and open your mind, it’s never too late to change and stop being blind/Just show some respect and you’ll get back the same/Well then you’ll rule the streets never again.”
Ticking Bombs kicks in with some bubbling bass, then guitars which bear the influence of the producer, Millencolin guitarist Mathias Farm, but it’s a solid enough song, even if the ‘woah, ohh, ohhs’ in the chorus make it bear more than a passing resemblance to Argy Bargy’s Burning Skies.
And so it continues: The Guvnor is their tribute to late London hardman Lenny McClean, Goodbye an up-tempo tale of life on the road, and so far so good.
Then we get to track 10, a cover of Elton John’s I’m Still Standing – wtf? I’m unsure if they’re taking the piss, or genuinely believe its sentiments. I really can’t decide. Whichever is the case, they nail it, though I never thought I’d hear a piano solo in a Booze & Glory song.
Amends are made with the next track, Three Points, the most typical B&G song here, and an obvious attempt to get their more-traditional fans back onside as they go for another beer after dropping the last one in shock. “We have three points again/Aanother happy day/To see those bubbles flying in the sky/We have three points again/Another happy day/West Ham United ‘til I die.”
So have they ‘sold out’ their street-punk roots, or progressed as songwriters and musicians and become a band whose message will now be taken seriously, rather than being dismissed as ‘just another oi! band’? Personally, I think the latter, but I think it’ll be too much to swallow for some. 8/10.