The Quireboys: Beautiful Curse

Over two decades since their booze-fuelled debut, it’s lucky seven for Spike and the boys.

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Led by Newcastle ex-pat Spike, the Quireboys spewed out of mid-1980s subterranean London, flying the flag for grubby rock’n’roll as filtered through Exile-era Stones, the Faces and Johnny Thunders. They called themselves the Queerboys when they debuted at Hammersmith’s stained-floor epicentre Klub Foot in 1986, until potential lost gigs prompted adjustment; standing them in good stead when they landed a Guns N’ Roses support spot at Hammersmith Odeon in October 1987.

With a name for booze-fuelled, sleazed-up whoopee, the Quireboys had Sharon Osbourne managing them by the time 1990’s A Bit of What You Fancy hit No.2 in the UK album charts, Spike’s Marlboro-marinated vocals adding to the freewheeling Faces ambience. Like many similar outfits, the Quireboys found their fortunes dip with the rise of grunge, 1993’s Bitter Sweet & Twisted faring less well. It prompted a hiatus until 2001, when they returned to traverse their current path, away from any movements but with their own (now instantly recognisable) sound.

Today, standing as louche, rock’n’roll survivors, the band’s frayed essence has never been better captured than on this new album. They still wear those influences on their sleeves but they’re now part of their fabric, like how first single Too Much of A Good Thing uses All Right Now as a launch pad before erupting into any air-punching, groin-grabbing gutter anthem of the last 40 years. Talk Of The Town and stately Mother Mary display discernible Mott flavours in the organ-guitar configurations.

Producer Chris Tsangarides (Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore) hotwires Stones-dunking strutters such as King Of Fools and For Crying Out Loud with crucial raunch factor, while capturing the extra textures of triumphant survival statement Twenty Seven Years. Spike’s voice is now a force of nature and outlawed puffers will love him for rasping, ‘Don’t preach to me, I’m chain smoking,’ on the track of that name.

This could be one of the keys to the band’s longevity. They now represent a breed standing firm against health and safety-obsessed society, or as Spike sings on the title track, ‘I’ve been blessed with this beautiful curse.’ Unrepentant, undimmed and a welcome blast of smoky air, this album is what they always did, except now they do it better. And in their chosen field, nobody does it better.

Kris Needs

Kris Needs is a British journalist and author, known for writings on music from the 1970s onwards. Previously secretary of the Mott The Hoople fan club, he became editor of ZigZag in 1977 and has written biographies of stars including Primal Scream, Joe Strummer and Keith Richards. He's also written for MOJO, Record Collector, Classic Rock, Prog, Electronic Sound, Vive Le Rock and Shindig!