Adecade on from their debut album, and two years after their well-received Only Human continued what has generally been acclaimed as an upward trajectory for the band, Vega deliver their sixth.
Since that last album they’ve expanded to a six-piece line-up with Martin Hutchison replacing Dan Chantrey as drummer and their live guitar-and-backing-vocals sideman ‘MyKey’ Kew joining full-time.
Kicking things off, Blind and (I Don’t Need) Perfection are fine openers, the former in particular boasting a tougher, almost Guns N’ Roses sound, presumably in support of their stated intention to shrug off the “AOR/1980s throwback” labels they feel hold them back.
Singer Nick Workman pleaded to listeners: “Don’t try and tag it with any sub-genre of rock or metal, just enjoy it”, while keyboard player James Martin insisted: “We set out to do something different on this album. We wanted to stand out from the rest of the pack.”
Lighten up, guys, you’re doing just fine. Take it as the intended compliment when I venture that Save Me From Myself, This One’s For You (despite its edgier guitar sound) and the fists-in-the-air anthem title track all bear the hallmarks of vintage Bon Jovi.
Which is not a problem. Vega just need to accept that this is what they’re good at. And their fan base is sure to follow as they expand their horizons on the album’s two standout tracks: Man On A Mission and the clumsily titled Consequence Of Having A Heart.
The former fairly stomps along, employing a ‘treated’ lead vocal, gang backing vocals, big drums and clever use of dead air to force its way into Thunder territory. The latter hangs on a pulsing keyboard rhythm that leads into a chorus sounding remarkably like Tears For Fears’ Mad World. For Vega this really is unexpected, approaching Spanish Inquisition territory.
Elsewhere, as on the tracks towards the end of the running order… not so much. In 2020 there are too many albums in our collections to suggest that this is an essential purchase.
Nevertheless the 11 songs that comprise Grit Your Teeth are plenty good enough to be rearranged into an entertaining set-list when they play live. But if Vega truly want to stand out from the pack, while picking up enough new fans to enable them to become major headliners, they’ll need to go a lot further beyond their comfort zone.
Next time why not take the Rainbow route and record a cover? And if not a Russ Ballard song, perhaps something by Tears For Fears.