Reef have captured lightning in a bottle, and it's pretty special

The Somerset rockers Reef show a strong hand on album number six Shoot Me Your Ace

Reef: Shoot Ne Your Ace cover art
(Image: © Raging Sea)

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Having risen to fame on the Britpop wave of the 90s, ever-likeable rockers Reef built a strong following before receding from the limelight in the 2000s. With guitarist Kenwyn House gone, replaced by Jessie ‘son of Ronnie’ Wood, 2018 comeback album Revelation was a compelling mishmash of hard rock, southern-fried flavours, gospel fixings, and a Sheryl Crow cameo to boot. 

For this follow-up, singer Gary Stringer, bassist Jack Bessant and Wood are joined by new drummer Luke Bullen (Joe Strummer/Bryan Ferry) and guitarist/producer Andy Taylor (ex-Duran Duran/Power Station). 

From its title to the Stonesy closer Strangelove, sixth album Shoot Me Your Ace sees the band playing to their hard-rock strengths, and finding some new ones. The opening title track is a strident rocker somewhere between Judas Priest and Led Zeppelin (‘Energy, lust and alcohol, agitation, breaking the law/Someone has story to tell, distant hip-hop, heavy metal’).

The ever-likeable Stringer can sell such lines – his gutsy, throat-shredding vocals are still full of soul and grit. On the grooving I See Your Face and the funky, AC/DC-lite chant-along Best Of Me Stringer channels Brian Johnson; on slow-builder Everything Far Away he’s part Billy Idol, part Jim Morrison, but ultimately always himself. 

Bessant and new boy Bullen are in thrilling lockstep, bringing swing and heft (the mid-tempo Hold Back The Morning; Aerosmithy When Can I See You Again, seemingly a celebration of ‘sealing the deal’ with a new squeeze).

Throughout the record there’s real chemistry to Wood and Taylor’s twinguitar attack. This is crunchier than anything his old man and Keith purveyed, but Wood’s a chip off the old block and he and Taylor have their own art of weaving. 

A seasoned player and savvy behind the desk too, Taylor, who made the single Love Or Liberation with Stringer in 2019, is a real asset. He’s always been a rocker at heart, and there’s not a shred of his New Romantic pop past here. The pair – and band – excel on songs with some none-more-rock titles. Refugee is a hugely catchy, Bon Jovi-on-11 anthem (one for the NWOCR crowd, for sure), Right On’s big vocal harmonies make up for its gleefully dumb lyrics, and Wolfman has a riff that Tom Morello would grin at. 

Enjoyable, exciting and whole-hearted, Shoot Me Your Ace is the sound a band with real musical simpatico. It’s as if they were discovering that as they went, and capturing something pretty special as it was happening. That’s lightning-in-a-bottle stuff.

Grant Moon is the News Editor for Prog and has been a contributor to the magazine since its launch in 2009. A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.