Album review: DAMN VANDALS – Rocket Out Of London

Damn Vandals - Rocket Out Of Love

[Release date 07.04.14]

Damn Vandals are cultivating a sound that is hard to ignore. The band’s urgent take on fuzzed up punk-tinged stoner rock makes you sit up and take notice. Chuck in a dominating vocal delivery with shoutey hints of metal over spare, stripped down song compositions and you have a potent combination of edge and verve.

‘Done For Desire’ the band’s 2012 debut, already tells us that Damn Vandals inhabit a dark and scary world. This follow up entices the casual listener further into realms of obsessive behaviour, alcohol/drug fuelled fantasy and anarchic, anti-establishment anthems.

When it all comes together in the right mix, this stuff is very good indeed. First single (17th March) and album opener, ‘Twist Up And Tangle’ is a barbed and spikey shot of rock, powered by a simple and effective hook. ‘Number One Fan’, an observation on stalking, is built around a great Frank Pick riff and his explosive lead guitar.

‘Mad As Hell’ is one of the best tracks here and leans heavily on a revved up psychedelic throwback. In the same vein ‘This Music Blows My Tiny Mind’, rams early 70’s fuzzbox and distortion cues through a 21st Century attitude wringer.

The album’s production is somewhere between dirty-edged stoner and snarly post-punk. Julian Simmons (Midlake, Ed Sheeran, Guillemots, Goldheart Assembly) on the production stool has done a good job in capturing both the outlook and the unique sound.

It wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of rosie lea, though. There are times when Jack Kansas’ frenzied vocals become too harsh and, well, tuneless (at the risk of sounding like my Dad) with some stylised repeated stuttering and shades of a death metal holler.

‘Too Lazy To Die, Too Stoned To Live’ suffers from an insipid guitar duelling with Jack’s screamed vocal mess. ‘I Bring You Love’ has a cool snake-hips groove and some wonderfully atmospheric guitar. But it’s almost painful in parts: the chorus is a deliberately discordant and antagonistic affair. ‘I Hate School’ features an excellent swirl of wah-wah lead guitar and a powerful vocal hook that Kansas, for my money, overworks into an overwrought scream.

On the whole though, this is absolutely an album to check out and has some great highlights. I wouldn’t want to put anyone off. Whilst Jack’s vocals aren’t always up my street (reflected in the star rating I’ve given this), you have to respect Damn Vandals for provoking reactions and demanding to be listened to. There is nothing indifferent or comfortable here and that’s the way rock n roll should be.  ***½

Review by Dave Atkinson


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