Album review: ANCHOR LANE – Casino


R7 Records [Release date 31.01.20]

Young, gifted and Scottish, What more could you want?

Anchor Lane – Connor Gaffney, Scott Hanson, Lawrence O’Brien and Matthew Quigley – are a Glasgow band who came to the attention of the rock’n'roll world on the back of their 2017 debut EP “New Beginning”. . . scoring them guest spots with Cheap Trick, a remarkably high profile start on the rock’n'roll version of the gig economy.

Their first full length, self penned studio album, “Casino” is produced by Toby Jepson. It’s a modestly scaled album that exceeds its budget limitations, and that’s always preferable to big money productions that sink under the weight of expectation. Jepson’s studio sound is clear and sharp, with width and depth, assiduously avoiding the sludgy arrangements and wildly uneven, invented rock noises that seem to be de rigeuer with contemporary producers.

The band stick tight to traditional rock’n'roll song structures and instrumentation, incorporating occasional moodiness and balladic touches into its otherwise charging style of bluesy rock.

It’s front loaded with the more commercial stuff. The smouldering, subdued opener, ‘Blood & Irony’ (co-written with Ricky Warwick), always seems to be on the verge of ignition. Such holding back implies a confidence in the material that is well justified. ‘Fame Shame’, the first single, has a rabble rousing, punky rock feel, at odds with the bluesier material that dominates the rest of the album. It’s filled with squealing, wailing axework and it occasionally shows the flicker of a harder, more dangerous edge. Great choice as album trailer.

Elsewhere, the picks would be ‘Clocks’, fuelled by a tumbling, tough as teak riff, an imaginative arrangement and a catchy chorus. And the bluesy, sub Black Label Society lament with a drawling riff, ‘Voodoo’. Gaffney puts his heart and soul into the vocals, wringing maximum emotion from every line. For anyone who thinks modern rock is worryingly lacking in heft, listen to these tracks.

Jepson’s cleancut arrangements and the band’s 3D rhythms are the album’s sonic heartbeat. But as the music progresses, producer and band play it safer, lessening Anchor Lane’s impact. To his credit, Jepson works up some imaginative arrangements, prizing polish over passion, looking to paper over the inconsistency in the songwriting on these later tracks. But he would have been better, perhaps, to let the passion shine through. ***

Review by Brian McGowan

David Randall plays a selection of new and classic rock in his weekly show first broadcast 14 June 2020 including reference to the Feature series “2020 Vision”.

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