Sure, he gets his turn singing Under Pressure at Foo Fighters shows, but surfer-dude drummer Taylor Hawkins is gradually being usurped as Dave Grohl’s most prominent sidekick by Rick Astley. His response has been to step up the solo career he began with 2016’s KOTA EP, following stints with Taylor Hawkins And The Coattail Riders (see what he did there?) and The Birds Of Satan.
This second solo release continues his forage through the annals of pomp rock and prog metal with the help of an array of superstar sidekicks of his own: Grohl, Roger Taylor, Joe Walsh, LeAnn Rimes, Nancy Wilson, Duff McKagan, Steve Jones, Chrissie Hynde… it’s like a post-grunge Ringo’s All-Starrs.
Hawkins remains unrepentant about the coattails he’s ridden in on; he slyly slips a snippet of Foo Fighters’ Best Of You into synth metal opening track Crossed The Line, and a space-noise coda that tips a wink to his work with Coheed And Cambria. The squealing-guitar tips he picked up working with Brian May pay off on Don’t Look At Me That Way, which is basically Queen if they’d got into more fights in country and western bars.
There’s plenty more here to suggest that Hawkins is happy being a classic rock magpie, such as the ill-fitting rag-bag of stadium rock mores that make up Shapes Of Things, or the way that Middle Child aims at Lodger-era David Bowie but hits Thin Lizzy, right down to the sort of whiskied harmonies and angle-grinder guitars you’re surprised to find in a loving ode to one’s daughter.
But there’s a willingness to mould and mutate his chosen forms too. You’re No Good At Life No More sandwiches a gristly biker blow-out with aquatic piano interludes, where Hawkins sings through MGMT’s bubble machine like a lonesome Aquaman.
C U In Hell is like listening to ELO playing in a different dimension, before the whole thing turns into an AC/DC wrecking ball of noise. Kiss The Ring is pure futurist gutter rock, despite some lyrics that wouldn’t be out of place on the crudest Def Leppard record: ‘You’re my queen and I’m your king/I wanna give you everything/All you gotta do is kiss the ring’.
Best of all, I Really Blew It comes on like a demented QOTSA, with Hawkins confessing his life’s errors accompanied by Perry Farrell and the most desperate screams you’ll hear on record (courtesy of Dave). And that’s before he really loses his shit and turns to booze and masturbation in the chorus.
Retro rock with rage and aspiration. Follow that, Astley