THUNDER – Rip It Up

thunder_riuBack in 1989 I was convinced that British rockers Thunder would become the next British rock band after Def Leppard to make it huge and conquer the world – and so were pretty much everyone I knew back then. Formed by singer Danny Bowes, guitarist Luke Morley and drummer Gary ‘Harry’ James of the ashes of the trio’s former act Terraplane – a band I wasn’t too impressed with – with incoming members, guitarist Ben Matthews and bassist Mark ‘Snake’ Luckhurst, the band released their debut album Back Street Symphony in 1990 and had several hits in Europe and the album made quite a fuzz over here, especially in their native Great Britain and when John Kalodner (he was working for Geffen records in the U.S. back then and had a hand in platinum selling acts such as Guns N Roses, Whitesnake and Aerosmith) picked them up to make them a world-wide affair I thought that the last piece of puzzle had been found. But things didn’t quite work out that way and the big victory did not occur. In 1992, when they released their follow-up Laughing On Judgement Day, the musical climate had started to change and even though the album was really good, it wasn’t as strong as the debut which didn’t help matters further. Thunder’s rootsy, melodic, 70’s based hard rock didn’t really fit the times any more and even though they kept playing and releasing records up until 1999, the band’s popularity had sunk and to be honest, the records weren’t even close to the first two, quality wise.

The band’s first break-up came after the very underwhelming Giving The Game Away in 1999 but it only took them four years on hiatus until the reunion came around. So, from 2003 to 2008, Thunder released four really good albums and it looked like the band was here to stay – with a growing popularity on their side. But after the great album Bang! (2008), the band decided to call it quits once more. Danny Bowes had started to work as a booking agent, which apparently brought in a much bigger income which also took all of his time, so Morley formed his blues rock duo The Union with singer Pete Shoulder and they released two albums in 2009 and 2011 respectively and drummer James joined British pomp rockers Magnum, a band he still is a member of. But rocking together was obviously something these boys missed so after seven years gone they decided to resurrect band once more, now with bass player Chris Childs (also in Tyketto) replacing Mikael Höglund (ex- Great King Rat) who replaced Luckhurst in 1993. And this time it feels like Thunder are back for good. This means another album from the boys and this time, after the success of the last album, the pressure was on. So, have Thunder managed to keep the promises the last album made, then? Let’s find out.

Opener “No One Gets Out Alive” is just as good as I had hoped. It sports some really catchy guitar riffs taken right out of the seventies and the Led Zeppelin meets Bad Company hard rock style marries fine with the pop feel of the melodies – it’s a knock-out for sure. The title track holds a “Gene Jeanie” (David Bowie) / “Blockbuster” (Sweet) sounding riff that brings my thoughts back to early 70’s glam rock whereas pretty much everything else sounds like classic Thunder – a big groove, glistening melodies and attitude. “She Likes The Cocaine” tells a story we all know only too well. Musically, it’s a memorable rocker with an old R&B/soul influence and some fine vocals by the awesome Lynn Jackaman (ex- St Jude) who guests on the song. It comes in a mid-tempo way but it’s catchy as hell – killer stuff! “Right From The Start” is an amazing ballad, very soulful and memorable with a big Beatles influence on the vocal melodies but also brings a mid 70’s Rolling Stones vibe. Fantastic song!  “Shakedown” is darker but comes with a heavy groove and riffs that borders to heavy metal. Mix that with a classic Thunder arrangement and melody and you get a tune that kicks up dust and grooves hard. “Heartbreak Hurricane” is a big grooved classic rocker based on both acoustic and electric guitars and I’m getting a late 70’s / early 80’s Whitesnake vibe from it – this is bad-ass!

“In Another Life” is a ballad on a blues foundation that’s reminiscent of Alannah Myles’ old hit “Black Velvet” but it also holds a vibe that makes me think of Gary Moore’s “Still Got The Blues”. It’s rhythmic and rootsy and I just love the groove – killer tune! “The Chosen One” takes a somewhat unexpected turn. The classic Thunder rock and roll is mixed with early 80’s AOR and I can spot both The Sweet’s more pop stuff and Foreigner here. It is without a doubt, the album’s sore thumb and I love it! “The Enemy Inside” is nothing but brilliant. With a thunderous (pun) groove and a catchiness that’s insane, this one is gonna be a blast live – because I take it for granted that it will be in the set. The classic Thunder vibe on “Tumbling Down” is so prominent that the tune could have been an outtake from one of their two first albums. The groove is steady and it rocks like crazy. There’s also a nod to The Who and Led Zep right in there – good song. Closing track “There’s Always A Loser” is a slow/mid-paced blues/rock song that borders to a ballad that has taken inspiration from early – mid 70’s Rolling Stones. If you’re gonna end a record with a slow track then this is way to do it – absolutely awesome!

All I can say is that Thunder have released one hell of an album and yes, this one is even better than its predecessor. Hell, I would even go as far as to say that this is their best album since the debut – and that speaks volumes for how awesome this record is. Thunder are a band that has managed to bring out a 70’s hard rock sound without falling into the so usual retro trap that so many bands have fallen into in later years. Thunder’s music is very recognizable – their arrangements and melodies have a certain twist that makes everything they do sound only like Thunder. They throw in rock, blues, soul, R&B and pop into their hard rock and it always comes out like a Thunder song. This is an album any rocker out there can buy unheard.

9/10

Other Thunder reviews:

Wonder Days

Tracklist:

1. No One Gets Out Alive
2. Rip It Up
3. She Likes Cocaine
4. Right From The Start
5. Shakedown
6. Heartbreak Hurricane
7. In Another Life
8. The Chosen One
9. The Enemy Inside
10. Tumbling Down
11. There’s Always A Loser

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