By Cameron Arndt, photos © GUN
GUN’s seventh album, their third since reforming with bass player Dante Gizzi switching to lead vocals, barrels right out the gate with She Knows. It’s a blast, an uptempo rocking number with a tumultuous riff, infectious melodies and scorching solos. In short, it’s classic GUN. It’s difficult to think of another band who have so successfully, and so consistently, married hard rock riffs with insanely memorable poppy melodies – and it soon becomes aparent that this new work contains another embarrassment of such riches.
There’s barely a song here that doesn’t contain a huge hook. Whether it’s bolted to the glam stomp of Here’s What I Am or the funked up heavy groove of the title track – led in by Paul McManus’ locked in beat and seeming to take inspiration from the band’s recent, boisterous take on Hot Chocolate’s Everyone’s a Winner – the melodic hook is always there, and burrows immediately into your brain, spearheaded by storming guitar work and accompanied by thumping drums & bass.
That opening salvo of tracks is merely the beginning as the record spins on without any let up until somewhere around track ten. The band have called this a real rock record and the guitar partnership of Dante’s brother Jools and new boy Tommy Gentry seem to have a ball, with more twisty riffs and giant chords than have ever featured on a GUN album. So Black Heart is led by a gritty guitar figure – though McManus and bass player Andy Carr still provide a bit of funk in the groove – while Take Me Down just batters you. The guitars are visceral, unrelenting and the track as a whole just drags you right along with it. There’s also an archetypal ‘GUN’ guitar solo – memorable, catchy with just a bit of flash. Gentry has impressed at recent live shows with his searing style and he has the knack of knowing when to play a hooky melodic lead and when to cut loose, which helps keep the instrumental work interesting and exciting right across the album.
Dante Gizzi is now long-entrenched in the lead singer’s role and it’s likely his elevation – and the bold, gutsy way he’s taken to the job – that have kept the band going, indeed, from strength to strength in the last few years. He turns in perhaps his best performance yet on Favourite Pleasures, morphing and molding his unique vocals – always hard to quantify, with an unusual nasally quality which can rise to an Axl Rose-style shriek when required – to suit a variety of styles and moods across the record.
He really goes for it on the title track with a clipped, fast paced delivery, then finds another level with raw, intense singing on the aforementioned Take Me Down, while Go To Hell has a far more brusque, abrasive feel. Casual fan’s mileage on this may vary, but for me it’s a good change in style and there’s a venomous tinge to the lyrics as Gizzi spits out, ‘Cos I would love love love love love love love love love for you to go to hell.’
Elsewhere Without You has a darker tone, thudding beat and subtle build to it’s huge chorus, and Tragic Heroes is a sweeping epic with a swooping guitar intro reminiscent of U2 in their grandest moments, restrained verses which let Dante Gizzi really shine and – somehow – a chorus that is even more giant that the ones which have come before!
The band, finally, pause for breath with track ten. The Boy Who Fooled The World is a complete departure, and all the better for it. Almost entirely composed of nothing but piano and Gizzi’s tender vocal, it’s a beautiful ballad given just the right colour and texture by some light backing vocals and subtle touches of guitar.
The album could end right there and it would be just about perfect, in fact there’s an argument to be made that it should have, with the lighter cut providing a satisfying dénouement to the raucous whole, but the Scottish rockers – Englishmen Gentry gets a pass thanks to his superlative skills! – are clearly in a generous mood and so, after a longer than usual gap, there’s an extended encore of three tracks beginning with Gizzi’s yell of ‘Kick it’ heralding a high energy cover of The Beastie Boys’ Fight For Your Right (To Party). While the modification of the ‘You’re just jealous it’s The Beastie Boys’ line to ‘The GUN boys’ is just a wee bit on the nose (what else were they going to say really?) it’s a great version of the song by a band who’ve always excelled at putting their own stamp on a diverse range of covers.
Favourite Pleasures rounds off with the spiraling riff and staccato vocals of Come Undone, and one final irresistible chorus as All I Really Need brings proceedings to a close. Following the synth-punctuated thrills of Break The Silence and the smooth pop vibes of Frantic this is another strong outing by a band who get better and better, and seem to be enjoying themselves more and more as well.
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