King Mojo Records [Release date 7.05.13]
In an age where a new generation of bands are subconsciously or otherwise recycling themes, riffs and the musical values of the late 60’s era, Pearl Handled Revolver are handily placed to tap into the trend on this their second album.
They play a unique blend of dark, layered, brooding psychedelic and goth tinged blues-rock. The tracks are full of deeply woven textures, melodic sweeps and an intense wall of sound topped by the consistently rough-hewn vocals of lyricist Lee Vernon.
Lee’s words fit perfectly with the music, as he shifts from a gut wrenching Tom Waits croak to some brusque, but uplifting Jim Morrison style phrasing. At times eclectic, poetic and occasionally impenetrable, his words are always interesting and give the music its sense of grandeur.
‘This Mountain Waits’ is far from being a blood and thunder album, though things do get heavier on ‘Rabbit Hole’ and the bulgy-eyed preacher intro to ‘You Got It Wrong’. But it’s the band’s willingness to stretch respective genres that offers them potential widespread appeal to a rock audience and more adventurous blues fans.
PHR set out their stall with unique soul bearing music that finds few equals on the contemporary rock scene. This is an album with a wide ranging scope as evidenced by the opening ‘Do It Again’ – an eastern inflected wall of sound with Purple style keyboards, lashing of wah-wah and a chanted hook – and the slow burning Mellotron driven finale of ‘Honeycomb’. The opening line of the chorus also gives the album its title.
They hover somewhere between the psychedelic blues-rock of the single ‘Rattle Your Bones’ and the dark and subterranean ‘Johnny’s In The Basement’, (well, it shares the same line from Dylan’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’).
The lyrics share the same themes as Nick Cave, without quite having the weight to fully realise them. Some of the tales of love, hope, despair, death and obsession may be rooted in Lee Vernon’s personal experience, but the characters and scenarios are frequently and uncompromisingly writ large to startling effect.
His narrative style works particularly well on the musical sweep of ‘Hello Mary’. She has a place: ‘Where you can wine, you can dine; you can blow your mind. And in the morning still show your face.’ On the other hand, the well worn narrative of ‘Johnny’ with its Zeppelin influenced Mellotron and chanted hook overstays its welcome.
‘This Mountain Waits’ is full of interwoven strands of lyrical imagery. We’re swept along by the psychedelic carpet ride of ‘Blind’ and the brushed strokes of the ‘LA Woman’ influenced ‘Jose’. The sing-along poetic couplets such as: ‘swinging teens, wannabe James Deans, night alley fights, and motorbikes’, just sound good without worrying too much about what it all means.
It’s almost as if some of the vocal lines are written as an integral part of the song , especially on the bass-led groove, drifting piano and organ sweep of ‘Hourglass’: ‘You’ve changed, we got along so well, two coins in the same well.’ It’s also one of Lee’s best vocals as he adds a Jim Morrison phrase from ‘The Changeling’ to great effect.
‘This Mountain Waits’ is shaped by varying moods and an adventurous musical spirit that rides rough-shot over our expectations. There’s hard rock, goth rock, luscious grooves, plenty of riffs and ever present dark imagery. After all, why would a band call themselves Pearl Handled Revolver otherwise?
PHR is also very much the sum of its parts. Lee Vernon may passionately bring his lyrics to life, but keyboard player Simon Rinaldo anchors everything with organ sweeps, portentous Mellotron colours, subtle piano lines, potent chord changes and a fine gritty production. Then there’s the lilting, understated bass of Oli Carter, Chris Thatcher’s intuitive drumming that glues everything together and Andy Paris’s riff driven versatility.
The music has that organic feel of a real band nailing their self penned material in the studio. You can almost smell the sweat, feel the air molecules and touch the imagery of music that recalls a bygone era, but is given a contemporary sense of purpose.
The band stretch out on ‘You Got It Wrong’ with some ripping slide, layered keyboards and a triple line (Hammond, guitar, harp) proggy outro. And they round things off with the slow burning opus ‘Honeycomb’, which makes the analogy between a tortured soul and a mountain waiting to explode. Not a bad way to describe their own brand of rock driven intensity. **** (4/5)
Review by Pete Feenstra
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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