Album review: PLANET GRAFFITI – Bad News

 Planet Graffiti [Release date 01.05.13]

Planet Graffiti is a Portsmouth based blues-rock power trio who have recently enjoyed 2 nationwide tours with New Jersey’s Billy Walton Band. ‘Bad News’ is their second album and despite the pessimistic title, it’s a sprightly, guitar driven blues-rock album.  There are plenty SRV and occasional Robin Trower influences, but ultimately Planet Graffiti convince us of the merits of their music on their own terms.

‘Bad News’ is something of a slow burner, as vocalist and guitarist Brent Hutchinson initially struggles to find his vocal range on the opening three tracks. The band sound a little circumspect, a touch claustrophobic and in need better arrangements and a good production. But patience brings its own rewards, and the band soon click into gear on the suitably title ‘Stevie’, a fine instrumental full of chiming notes, an earthy tone, crisp percussion and lots of welcome space. It’s also the track on which Brent steps up the plate with some nifty licks and a deep tone.

‘Bleeding Out’ borrows Jeff Lynn’s ‘10538 Overture’ guitar riff for its opening, on a song that combines confident vocals with a catchy melody. They also reference The Tubes guitar riff from ‘I Was a Punk Before You Were A Punk’, on their own ‘Catfish Swampers’. It’s the track on which the band finally relaxes to the point that Brent exuberantly shouts out ‘where’s my guitar’, before he cuts loose with a dirt sounding tone over some tightly wrapped funk. The subtle dynamics are emphasised by Donna Peters’s mid-number drum roll, before the band slips back into the groove.

The album builds incrementally much like a good gig. ‘Fix Me’ is one of their very best efforts, being a heartfelt love song, predicated on a delicate acoustic and given its uplifting quality by Brent’s best vocal and by some impressive accompanying  harmonies. The funky ‘Bad Advice’ also manages to transform itself into a poised drifting blues, as Brent rebuilds the piece from the bottom up, with a Peter Green influenced solo full of delicate touch and tone.

The explosive SRV style instrumental end-piece ‘Snoogle Boogie’ is the album highlight, with Brent’s intricate runs well supported by the shuffle beat rhythm section of Rupert and Donna Peters.

Both instrumentals on the album are the stuff of a tight tour band for whom stretching a tune is second nature, while the rest of the album finds the power trio refreshingly focussed on songs. And if ‘Bad News’ is like the curates egg, good in parts, there’s enough originality and sparkling licks to suggest there’s plenty more good stuff to come from this vibrant trio. Watch this space. *** (3/5)

Review by Pete Feenstra

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