Highlights: Before The Fire, The Exit Sign, The Soul Of The Hour, Dust In The Light
It’s almost summer now, and The Soul Of The Hour seems like the first genuine classic of 2014. This is good with a very hard ‘g’ and in a very old-fashioned kind of way. A band so in shape and yet so out of time.
I got into Gallon Drunk through the terrific, Max Décharné-fronted Flaming Stars (another underappreciated band all good people should check out), and back when I first heard them they sounded a mess. Despite some sloppy flashes of noisy brilliance, they were interesting but made little sense. You could find the same dirty punk blues, but done better – if maybe not always with such passion.
The Soul Of The Hour won me over in its opening 10 or 15 seconds of rollicking piano notes. This album is tight, gripping, positively overwhelming. A bit like classic Crime & The City Solution but with excessive darkness dropped in favour of even more intensity and power.
First comes “Before The Fire”, and there is no better way to open an album. The buildup is breathtaking, young Mike Oldfield would have approved. Initially it’s just piano. Then drums kick in. Then organ starts swirling. Then guitar, then vocals. A 9-minute musical feast that will have your veins pumping with pleasure and noise. It’s rough but they have mastered those edges. “The Dumb Room” and “The Exist Sign” are raucous, revved-up, dirty-ass punk rockers that show off confidence and guts. The title track is placed in the middle, and for a good reason. It’s the centrepiece. One dark mid-tempo groove that could go on forever for all I care. “Dust In The Light” is a Gallon Drunk-styled ballad, subtle, melodic and ominously pretty. Finally, the last two tracks are more of that lush, propulsive energy offered at the beginning.
There are but seven rather lengthy songs here, and I don’t have one bad word to say. Is this the best album in their 20-year career?.. I would not be surprised. And I would certainly not mind staring at that cover art for the whole duration of this album. Brilliance all around.