Quireboys - Well Oiled
A new Quireboys album must be a cause of celebration to someone, somewhere, surely? Fifteen years before bands decided they'd really rather be in The Rolling Stones than play something new, a handful of British bands were already pioneering the retro sound. Too messy and noisy to fit in with the American Glam scene, these bands the scuzzy architects and kings of UK sleaze rock. The Quireboys were not the best (The Dogs D'Amour) nor were they the worst (The Grip, anyone? Ha! Thought not.) of these jumped-up pub bands, but they were probably the most successful. They appeared on Top Of The Pops with their hit single, 'Hey You' and looked like they belonged there. The Dogs D'Amour, on the other hand, appeared on Top Of The Pops and looked like they belonged outside a tube station begging for change in soiled trousers, which is where they might well be today.
Anyway, Newcastle's best glam/rock/sleaze band is back with a new album, and it's rather difficult to get excited. First time round, they sounded like a Small Faces covers band, what possible relevance could they have now? And look at the album title, Well Oiled? Dear me, it's the sort of double entendre title you thought had died out with the likes of Slippery When Wet or the Kingdom Come's Tap-esque In Your Face (think about it, if it's not immediately clear). The first thing you hear when you play the album is a guitar riff, followed by a power chord with a tinkling piano underneath it; it's at once clear that this is not a band that has progressed - it's 1990 again, or is it 1971? Then Spike's voice kicks in, with a grotesque blues howl of quite staggering proportions and then they suddenly begin to make sense again. Listen, for all his sins, Spike possesses a fine, throaty rasp of a voice perfectly suited to this sort of laid back, boogie-woogie sort of rock 'n' blues. It's a voice that's been fine tuned by late nights, cigarettes and cheap booze and it would be criminal if it didn't continue to make records. The trouble is, though, that it needs better songs than these to sing.
Good To See You is the song you just know is going to open their current set when they play their live dates. It's nice enough as well, a more urban sort of sound that you'd expect, with guitars high in the mix and a simple riff that is catchy enough and a cheery, upbeat sort of number. From then on, it's a more familiar sort of sound. A loose blues riff, with keyboards that pretty much sums up their style. Heard one Quireboys song, heard them all, almost. They're all variations on a theme, really. Lorraine Lorraine has some great guitar work, and a nice rolling rhythm, complete with harmonica, but with a horribly predictable chorus. If you've heard anything by the Quireboys before, you can guess what the chorus is like just by saying the name of the song out loud. You might find a treacherous foot was tapping, though.
The trouble with this album, though, is that from the isolated highlight, there's something really bland about it. Last track, Black Mariah is a perfect example. Given that it's the last track, you'd expect something spectacular, but what you get is a six minute sub-pub standard near-ballad that could do with about three minutes chopping off as all it seems to do is repeat itself over and over again. This sort of thing is pretty common throughout the album. The Quireboys are just a bit too bland to be the full-on rock 'n' rollers they want to be. It all sounds too safe and they never sound like they're taking any risks; everything is well performed enough, there's just no spark to it. Spike has a great voice; it's just wasted on songs as pedestrian as these. There's nothing wrong with the album, per se, it makes great background music but don't expect anything else. And all right, yeah, they still sound a lot like Rod Stewart.