"When I was thirty I was over the hill/Fifty years later I still kill," lan Hunter sings on This Is What I'm Here For. The fact that the last track on Ian Hunter's new album is a rock- hard mission statement says a lot about Ian Hunter. Defiance Pt 1 (great name) may be Hunter's eighteenth or so album (not counting his records with Mott The Hoople), but in its speed, its swing, its songs and its attitude it's more like a debut.
Even the presence of a line-up of ridiculously famous star names, normally a bad sign (superstar contributors tend to act like a dead weight on albums, rather than a lift) doesn't detract from the sheer Ian Hunter-ness of Defiance. Celebrity pals including Ringo Starr, Todd Rundgren, Slash and the late Taylor Hawkins all lend their talents, but none of them overwhelm the songs or come anywhere near to standing in Hunter's light.
Part of this must be down to his regular collaborators The Rant Band, led by longtime conspirator Andy York, who rock and swing like anything throughout, and by now can anticipate their boss's every demand. Part of it must also be the respect for Hunter, who has defied the laws of space and time all his life. But most of this album's sheer chutzpah and balls is down to Hunter, who has made seemingly not giving a fuck part of his personal mission statement since 1969.
The songs are great. From the title track that's as metal as Hunter gets (that'll be Slash) and is a classic Hunter boast ("Got an F for giving too much lip/Got an F for being tragic and hip"), to the single Bed Of Roses, about playing Hamburg's Star Club and features, aptly enough, Ringo on drums, this is a collection of brilliant, swinging rockers.
There are harmonies from Rundgren on the majestically Dylanesque Don't Tread On Me, there's a track featuring, impossibly, Taylor Hawkins, Billy Bob Thornton and Billy Gibbons, and there is the epic Angel, a ballad as good as anything Hunter has ever done, with the haunting line: "When we move, I hope we go to your place." Nobody but Hunter has the power, at this point in their career, to sound so fresh, so new and so exciting.
"When I'm through, I'll notify you,' he sings on This Is What I'm Here For. We better believe it.