Album review: TOKYO MOTOR FIST – Lions


Frontiers Records (Release Date 10.07.20)

Tokyo Motor Fist’s second album is one of the most hotly anticipated melodic rock releases of the year. The 2017 debut of this East Coast supergroup was among the best of the year, while the fact that another Danger Danger offshoot in The Defiants delivered such a strong sophomore effort of their own (GRTR!’s No 1 melodic album of 2019) creates its own expectations, though any competition is friendly with Bruno Ravel mixing this album.

Trixter’s Steve Brown is the main creative force, as producer and sole songwriter bar a solitary co-write, while his guitar work is all over the album from the flurry of notes at the start of opener ‘Youngblood’.  Both that and ‘Monster In Me’- one of those rare hook-laden treats where the bridge is good enough to be a chorus in its own right- are in a similar vein to the debut, albeit slicker and better produced.

‘Around Midnight’ weighs in at under three minutes of pure energy  with some of the power pop influences of Steve’s 2000’s project 40 Foot Ringo, while ‘Mean It’ is another instant classic, boasting a verse a little like bit like Journey’s ‘Stone In Love’ and ‘Wo-oahs’ in those big gang-style backing vocals, no coincidence perhaps as Steve has on more than one occasion deputised  with Def Lepaprd. ‘Decadence On 10th Street’ has a sleazier vibe with touches of Trixter and Tyketto’s ‘Lay Your Body Down’.

However TMF have wisely avoided just reprising more of the same and instead taken a few chances, notably on two songs where stars of a previous generation make a guest appearance. The title track features not only  a piano intro, strings and deeper lyrics, but an extravagant mid-song snyth solo by former Stygian Dennis De Young; and ‘Sedona’ boasts horns, and a sax solo from one-time Foreigner and now Billy Joel sideman Mark Rivera, though the song is one of the weaker on the album.

‘Dream Your Heart Out’ combines one of the tougher riffs on the album with some typically melodic vocals from Ted Poley, who sings with a great maturity these days. Indeed the second half of the album is somewhat mellower with ‘Blow Your Mind’ also having a smoother feel and ‘Look Into Me’ a semi ballad with a great melodic hook on the chorus.

The final song ‘Winner Takes All’, featuring a brief string opener, is a slow burner but ultimately the melody lodges deep in the brain, while a closing series of arpeggios from Steve ends his contribution the way it came in.

No second album syndrome here, as TMF successfully manage to build on the proven strengths of the first album while exploring a couple of stylistic shifts. I’ve got a feeling they will again be appearing in my end of year selection.   **** ½

Review by Andy Nathan

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