Album review: THE BUNNY GANG – Thrive

The Bunny Gang - Thrive

Hardline/Membran [Release date 17.11.14]

The Bunny Gang are fronted by Flogging Molly bassist Nathen Maxwell.  However, the musical style of his side project is very different from Flogging Molly’s boisterous and defiant Irish punk drive.

‘Thrive’, the band’s second album, is mostly a mellow, laid back ska/reggae/dub influenced affair, with a lick of indie rock, reverb guitar and only distant nods to Maxwell’s daytime job.

The album opens with ‘The Reckoning’, an easy-paced track featuring chiming guitars, layered melodies and chanted vocals, a sound that re-appears elsewhere on the collection.

Maxwell’s vocals here and on ‘Sirens Through the City’ are smooth, almost soporific in delivery. The phrasing, particularly on ‘Sirens..’, could easily be The Specials, minus Terry Hall’s nasal twang. A million miles away from the frenetic delivery of Flogging Molly’s Dave King, once of the influential Fastway.

‘Illegal Market’ continues the mellow groove but somehow contrasts with the socially aware, peaceful revolution, challenge-the-status-quo subject matter. None of the tracks here really kick on. Waiting around for some serious energy to give life to the words is a fruitless task.  Music and lyrics don’t seem to sit comfortably together in the songs. But maybe this is the point?

That said, as the album progresses, inventive and surprising guitar lines from Nat Lort-Nelson begin to feature more meaningfully. Spikes of six-string interest shake up otherwise gentle fare on ‘Beach Coma’ and dub-framed closer ‘Canoe Club’.  Title track ‘Thrive’ has some good distorted guitar that spirals and cuts.

The album hits its real stride – however faltering that may be – about two-thirds of the way in, with the instrumental ‘Waves’ dishing some heavy reverb guitar and fragments of sampled vocals.

This gives way to ‘We Are The Ones’, probably the stand out track and closest to the sound of Flogging Molly, with uplifting gang-vocals, driving guitar and marching-song drum weave.  ‘Uprise Underground’ follows and packs plenty of spirit.

Then the album drops away to its easy listening formula, even finding room for some organ and stacked ‘oohs’ on the backing vocal of ‘Running’.

Great voice, nice feel, but a little too much potential for supermarket aisle music.  ***

Review by Dave Atkinson

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