Some bands strive so hard for authenticity when trying to recapture what they imagine to be the 70s spirit of blues-drenched, bellbottomed rock’n’roll, that it ends up having the opposite effect and starts to look and sound like they’ve been raiding the dressing-up box, the scent of pastiche and patchouli lying heavy in the air.
Others, though, don’t have to try too hard because they naturally have the essential spirit running through their veins, their motivation nothing more and nothing less than a pure and deep love of the music, and an innate understanding of how to conjure it from their souls. It’s impossible to fake. The Answer are very much in the latter category.
The Northern Irish quartet have been missing in action for the past few years, having made the sensible decision to step back and reset for their own mental, physical and creative wellbeing. The break has clearly done them the world of good, because Sundowners is a joyful explosion of restless grooves, warming Hammond, chirping harmonica and beautiful, flawless harmonising from their female backing singers, the glitter to counter and complement the grit of frontman Cormac Neeson’s earnest rasp.
The touchstones are obvious but perfectly pitched. Cold Heart could have come straight from Free’s back catalogue, a strutting party starter laden with immaculate riffs and Neeson’s endlessly soulful, seemingly effortless vocals, and there’s a cock-sure confidence straight from the AC/DC school of showmanship. Rhythm and dust meets attitude and lust on the unashamedly libidinous Oh Cherry, but elsewhere it’s more about the mood than the meaning, the title track delivering hypnotic, shamanic, fire-lit beats that speak of hazy, altered-reality weekends spent under the stars, taking in the enormity of the universe while out of your noodle.
It’s perfectly pitched for festival crowds to lose themselves to, neatly plotted into the set-list so it’s timed to salute the sun as it slips over the horizon. This album is the sound of a band with nothing to prove to themselves or anyone else. They’re not trying to challenge you, or to reinvent the wheel, they’re just conducting emotion, a raw feeling, and communicating it beautifully to their audience.
And that’s why they slot in so neatly alongside the blues-rock giants that came before them – not because they’ve forensically studied and replicated their predecessors, but because they know instinctively that it comes from the heart, and that’s something that can’t be forced.