When you figure that UFO formed in 1969 and still feature two original members in frontman Phil Mogg (aged 63) and drummer Andy Parker (his 60th is fast approaching), you’d have every reason for thinking that Seven Deadly would be the sound of a band going through the motions. Brittle, arthritic motions at that.
But surprise, surprise. UFO’s first studio album since 2009’s The Visitor is bursting with creativity and athleticism. It’s as if someone has laced their Bristol Cream with steroids and fitted their Motability tour bus with twin turbochargers. It ain’t feeble, it’s positively febrile.
Mogg, in particular, is at the top of his game. He carries the record with his passion. His singing has all the vim and vigour it had on Strangers In The Night, their legendary 1979 live album; maybe even more. His lyrics remain as erudite and evocative as anything Mellencamp, say, has ever written.
But – whether it’s borne out of world-weariness or misanthropy, we dunno – somehow there’s a darker edge this time around. When Mogg sings, ‘I twirl my fingers ’round your honey hair’ on The Last Stone Rider, you can’t help but feel he’s inching his digits toward the throat. Mind you, there’s no beating about the bush on Other Men’s Wives: _‘Caught my baby with another man/I’m gonna kill ’em both… because I can’. _No wonder, on Fight Night, Mogg issues the following lament: _‘Oh, sweet Mary, I’m soaked in sin’. _
Seven Deadly begins in frantic fashion before settling into a groove that’s powerful and reflective, complex and involving. Mojo Town, the third track, is a gigantic jangling blues monster that brings guitarist Vinnie Moore to the fore; you won’t believe this so-called ‘technical musician’ can play so raw. Burn Your House Down is packed full of loping menace; Angel Station builds from a gentle ballad into something sprawling and magnificent, complete with the added frisson of female backing vocals; the aforementioned The Last Stone Rider sounds, surprisingly, like The Doobie Brothers playing UFO’s classic Only You Can Rock Me.
In an album of numerous high spots, and tons of twists and turns, the best is left until last. Waving Good Bye, enhanced by Tommy Newton’s massive production job, is as mournful as it is monumental. Again, Mogg cuts to the lyrical quick when he grieves: _‘I’m saying goodbye for the very last time/Lost everything, but nothing was mine’. _
If this is indeed UFO’s swansong, all we can say is: what a way to go.