Marshall Records [Release date o5.10.18]
Bad Touch isn’t a band that is about to rewrite the rock and roll handbook, but ‘Shake A Leg’ neatly reaffirms the potency of riff-driven, fist pumping, hook-laden hard rock.
They impressively focus on their songs and stoke up enough intensity and spontaneity to help shape their own signature sound in a busy market place.
That said, they are not averse to occasionally rifling salient influences such as Led Zeppelin. Check out the pounding drum break of ‘I Belong’ – complete with a guitar part that cleverly mirrors the hometown theme of the song – or the balls out rocker ‘Show Me What It Means’.
They also reference AC/DC on the pouncing hard rock of ‘Too Many Times’, but such obvious influences are counter-weighted by album highlights such as the booming riff-led ‘Take Me Away’.
The latter exemplifies their subtle use of stuttering rhythms and pounding percussion, while vocalist Stevie Westwood’s rasping vocal draws the whole song together. This is the moment when they reveal their own sound and direction with a defining chorus.
‘Tussle’ also stretches the intensity breaking point before a faux climactic resolution and disguised coda that rounds things off breathlessly.
They are also confident enough to finish the album with noticeable restraint on the percussive, acoustic-into-rock ballad ‘Slow Tempest’. Finally there’s the heartfelt vocal and guitar book-end ‘Bury Me’, which cleverly combines the contrasting elements of pathos and hope. You could imagine this as a second encore to wrap up one of their exuberant live shows.
‘Shake A Leg’ works so well simply because the band have approached their material in the old school format of a rock album with a beginning, middle and end.
They open with the excellent ‘Lift Your Head Up’, on which the exclamatory line: ‘Hey you, yeah you”, levers us into a riff-driven number that flows into the sing-along hook in the best hard rock traditions.
It’s the perfect start to a hard rock album that has enough variety and meaningful lyrics to avoid either cliché or over familiarity
Despite its unoriginal title, ‘Hammer Falls’ finds guitarist Rob Glendinning cleverly mixing a jangling guitar opening with a drone feel, while on the single ‘Skyman’, he explores a more grungy sound leading to a sonic explosion. Westwood’s stop- time vocal further emphasizes some very effective dynamics.
Glendenning also adds a repeated gnawing buzz tone riff on the hurriedly delivered hook of ‘Dressed To Kill.’
It’s the band’s combination of sonic detail, and significant dynamics, allied with strong songs with plenty of variety that gives ‘Shake A Leg’ its brio..
Given their live in the studio approach, ‘Shake A Leg’ is almost a conceptual title. It evokes the kind of bluster and bombastic rock that fuels their best efforts.
Bad Touch has already leapfrogged the promising label stage. They won the Marshall Ultimate Band Contest back in 2013, which presumably led to their deal with the new Marshall label. ‘Shake A Leg’ is their 3rd album and it sends out a strong statement of who they are and where they want to be.
This album is by no means the finished article, but it’s got real drive, energy and enough presence to allow the band to forge their own direction with meaningful songs, passionate rock and a big production to seal the deal. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
Andy Nathan writes:
Bad Touch’s rise to the verge of the big time has been built on a punishing schedule of incessant roadwork, but not at the expense of finding time in the studio to record a third album.
They have kept the same direction but made subtle changes to their approach. Without losing their trademark bluesy feel, the majority of these songs go for the throat, getting to the hooks and strong choruses in short order and most of the opening numbers all hover around a concise three minute mark.
However there is a big caveat, which is a very lo-fi production. They wouldn’t be the first current band in this idiom to go for a currently fashionable dry, raw in the studio production, but going back and revisiting its predecessor , 2016’s ‘Half Way Home’, the production was much crisper and sharper.
The Black Crowes influences are a tad less obvious this time while on the likes of ‘Tussle’ some more contemporary White Stripes/Black Keys vibes come through, with Reef another comparison that crops up from time to time.
Despite my personal reservations about the production style, this album sees Bad Touch moving forward with the confidence of increasingly seasoned professionals. It draws on the well of classic blues, southern and country rock influences, but further develops their own style. The boys from the East Anglia delta are shaping up nicely. ****
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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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