Last week's Tracks Of The Week competition was one for the ages. When Rivers Meet took on Those Damn Crows in a battle that tipped one way and then the other, finally concluding as the voting deadline passed and the former were able to confirm themselves narrowly victorious. Boy, it was exhausting. Exhausting.
Black Star Riders came in third with Riding Out The Storm, but, in all honesty, they were but a sideline skirmish in comparison to the main battle. So here's When Rivers Meet again, with their triumphant, season-appropriate winning entry, Christmas Is Here.
See below for this week's rockin' reindeer.
The Answer - Want You To Love Me
They’re back, baby! And as this box-fresh banger suggests, they are not here to mess around with slow-burners or material that ‘grows with listens’ – this is all gigantic, infectious rock grooviness right away, on first listen. No ifs, no buts. Thick shades of latter-day Robert Plant and Rival Sons abound, laying down juicy omens for the Northern Irish rockers’ next album Sundowners (which comes out in March), their first since 2016’s Solas record.
Crossbone Skully - Evil World Machine
Masterminded by Alice Cooper guitarist/bassist/singer and Hollywood Vampire Tommy Henriksen – and named after Hendricksen’s own graphic novel superhero creation – Crossbone Skully’s upcoming debut (due in 2023) features an impressive checklist of rock royalty including Cooper, Nikki Sixx, Joe Perry and others. Oh, and Mutt Lange emerged from retirement to produce the record. Does all that classic A-list pedigree come across in Evil World Machine? Does it make you think ‘party-time soundtracked by AC/DC and Alice Cooper’? In a word, yes.
Vai/Gash - Busted
Back in 1991, Steve Vai teamed up with a biker buddy – a loose cannon named Johnny “Gash” Sombrotto who literally set himself on fire – to make Vai/Gash, a high-octane love letter to the 70s rock of his youth. It lay unreleased for years…until now, starting with Busted. Vai says: “I was overcome with a desire to rip out what I thought would be a straight-ahead type of rock record that contained the kind of music I wish I had to listen to when I was that teenager ensconced in the biker culture." Mixing the bassline groove of Golden Earring’s Radar Love with monster riffs and Van Halen-style giddiness, this is Vai at his most shamelessly fun, propelled by the wild-child vocals of his late friend.
Heavy Blanket - Danny
Ten years on from its last outing, J Mascis’ heavy instrumental psych project returns with this deliciously head-screwing newbie, hot off their new album titled Moon Is, which comes out in January. The Dinosaur Jr man/alt rock maverick has long defied easy categorisation, and Danny doesn’t change that; think Abraxas-era Santana roaming through the wilderness, peyote in hand, emitting fuzzed up guitar chops like a man possessed. Freaky as hell, but super melodic and enveloping with it.
Dead Writers - Lisa
If you like your rock’n’roll with a side of piano bar smoke, Peaky Blinders chic and Tim Burton hair, you’ll want to check out the new song from this London lot (they also have a self-titled EP out now). Inspired by Dostoyevsky’s novella Notes From The Underground, Lisa tells the story of the “isolation, self-reliance and eventual salvation of Lisa, a young woman trapped in a life of prostitution”, ultimately breaking free and becoming the heroine. All burlesque keys, New Romantic aftertastes and lovelorn vocals that evoke images of Queen with more guyliner, it’s sumptuous stuff.
Steel Panther - 1987
Ahhh 1987. To blithely idolise everything about it would be stupid, but from a rock’n’roll standpoint it was, for the most part, pretty fucking great. Steel Panther have spent their career faithfully homaging the best – and worst – things about this storied year, so it was surely a matter of time before they wrote a song about it. The end result? An ‘87-shaped love-in with glorious twin lead guitars and a singalong chorus you can actually bring home to your mum… pretty much. A brainless yet big-hearted reminder that, for all the unrelenting dick jokes, Steel Panther are genuine rock fanboys at heart.
Slift - Unseen
Unseen was recorded during the making of Slift's 2018 album Ummon, but has only just emerged from the sonic swamp to be released via the ever-popular Sub Pop Singles Club. Fans of the cult French stoners may ponder why this wasn't released first time round, because it's a woozy, discombobulating affair, drenched in reverb, with guitars that sound like pathways to the stars and vocals that are similarly celestial. File under "my head hurts".
Laura Cox - So Long
Off to France we go again, for a sliver of rockin' blues from Anglo-French YouTube sensation Laura Cox. So Long comes from upcoming album Head Above Water, and it's slicker than an oil spill, with gritty guitar and a chorus that soars without much apparent effort. Think Larkin Poe covering one of Halestorm's less fierce songs and you're in the right ballpark. Or Stade de baseball as they almost certainly don't say in Paris.