Every now and again, an album will land that will provoke a spontaneous skip, a flicker of genuine excitement in my tired, weary, deadened heart. I sometimes wonder if people’s attitudes to music are changing, as they swim through the sea of recommended streams and playlists, mindlessly soaking up recommendations and ‘playing next’ that drift in one ear and out the other and it’s all so much sonic wallpaper.
I don’t expect violins, but reviewing is similarly an exercise in oversaturation. Things kinda blur after a while. The enthusiasm – and quite possibly the senses – become a bit blunted over time, especially when presented with a conveyor-belt of mediocrity.
It was late 2010 I first encountered Damn Vandals, and they immediately stood out with their gritty brand of rock ‘n’ roll that oozed confidence and grabbed me by the throat: ‘This Amazing’ really was. And nothing of theirs I’ve heard since has disappointed, which meant the arrival of ‘You Me The Devil and the Sunshine’ gave me an instant buzz of piqued interest.
It’s been a while – their last album, ‘Rocket out of London’ was back in 2014, but that interest is immediately converted to the old enthusiasm for a great band: they blast in with the chunky riffage of ‘Don’t You Meddle With the Gods Tonight’ and it’s An instant reminder that Damn Vandals are one of a remaining few rock bands that properly go swaggering, gritty rock ‘n’ roll – proper, sweaty, balls-out riff-driven rock that’s got the lot – a bit of punk, a bit of surf, a bit of psyche, a slab of stoner, and ALL the groove. It’s clear that in 6 years they’ve lost none of their fire.
The guitar histrionics in the opening bars of ‘Into the Light of Love’ hark back to the Manics in their early days, although there’s something of a ‘You’re Living All Over Me’ era Dinosaur Dr feel to the guitars on what’s perhaps the most ‘indie’ track on the album, despite the gruff, throaty vocal performance.
‘Happy in the Fall’ is simple but effective, as a repetitive riff batters away, and the wild slide guitar action on the whisky-soaked ‘Jack All’ is only a factor in the percussion-driven hard-punching blues that slams straight into the guts. They show an unusual degree of sensitivity on the slow-burning ‘Cobra’, but it’s got some bite, while ‘It’s Alive’ has all the brawling blues fight of The Doors at their roughest, paired with the hollering delirium of The Jesus Lizard. Too rough and too heavy to be ‘classic’, this is everything a rock album should be – unpolished, direct, sexy, riffy. There’s no shortage of dirty swagger here, and it’s nowhere more evident on the driving ‘Drink it Up’. And it closes with a single – ‘They Won’t be Happy Till They Blow up the Moon’, which isn’t only a shade audacious, but a killer sign-off, an indication of the album’s depth, since any track on here would stand up as a single – but this is perfect, closing off with a mosher that would be a perfect finisher to a live show with its scuzzy guitars and thrashing drums.
There isn’t a duff track on here, and every time the old rock tripes seem to be growing tired, an album comes along that really kicks hard to prove otherwise. It may not really deviate from the firm of their previous efforts, but so what? ‘You Me The Devil and the Sunshine’ is a solid rock album brimming with energy and a rawness and authenticity that absolutely hits the spot.