For some reason, Scottish rockers Gun are more associated with their cover of Cameo’s hit “Word Up” than anything else. At least I get that impression from reading reviews of Gun’s albums. Sure, the song was their biggest hit but there are more, so much more, to the band than that song. I have always been a fan of Gun but I don’t think they ever topped their debut album Taking On The World (1989). But that doesn’t mean that the rest of their discography is bad because it’s not. It’s actually the opposite. Gallus (1992) and Swagger (1994) are brilliant records which makes it a bit of a mystery that Gun never made it huge because quite frankly, they deserve to be. It’s even weirder when you think of the fact that they got to open for bands such as Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and even The Rolling Stones – and that they sported a sound that was their own. The band always mixed their influences from regular hard rock, a bit of arena rock and bands such as U2 and Simple Minds, something that never made them just another melodic rocker band from the 80’s. Gun were never a stereotype and played music that should have worked brilliantly no matter which trend that was hip at the moment.
But by the mid 90’s, grunge was the thing and I guess Gun weren’t depressive enough so even their popularity started to fade and come 1997, they had split up. But reformation should come and in 2008 the original members, the Gizzi brothers Giuliano (guitar) and Dante (bass) put the band together again with Toby Jepson (ex- Little Angels) as the replacement for original singer Mark Rankin. They released the E.P. Popkiller in 2009 (a record I have never heard…) before Jepson jumped ship. Today, Gun is a different band than they were the first time around where Dante had moved from bassist to lead vocalist and their sound is a bit more hard rock now. But they’re still a brilliant band. Both reunion albums Break The Silence (2012) and Frantic (2015) are great albums, both pretty different to each other, and they also proved themselves as a really good live act. When the news broke that they were about to release a new record and that they were aiming at a sound more reminiscent to their two first albums, my already high expectations rose even bigger. Great news indeed.
Opener “She Knows” is a darker kind of pop song with clear traits of classic rock. It sports a melancholic atmosphere like it was born out of a broken heart – which lyrically it is – but the chorus catches on distinctively without being very radio friendly. A great opener that sure gives the vibes of older days. “Here’s Where I Am” sports a steady beat and a groove that leans towards 70’s glam rock in a mid-paced pop-rock way. The nod back to the debut is quite obvious even though the tune don’t have the actual sound of that record. Again, the tune it’s quite catchy but not in a going-for-airplay kind of way. Great tune! The title track comes on swinging with a danceable groove mixed with straight forward rock and a darker kind of pop vibe. If the previous tracks shows the nodding back to the glory days, then this tune really brings the brilliant debut to mind. A very much back to the roots tune and a real killer. “Take Me Down” is more distinct hard rock, more reminiscent of their later records. The pop arrangement is very much in-your-face although not in a “Top 40” kind of way, it’s more an album-track. It do catches on pretty much on the spot and it’s a damn good rocker.
The single “Silent Lovers” is a swinging pop number with a bit of Brit-rock touch. But don’t let that scare you, the tune is a real killer with a very memorable melody an instant refrain, sticky as Hell. Awesome! The mid paced “Black Heart” is on the heavier side, a bit more punchy and a more hard rock crunch. It’s a classic Gun track that lies somewhere in between Gallus and Swagger that sticks right away. Very good. “Without You In My Life” has a ‘ballad-title’ but it never goes into balladry at all. It’s more a mid-paced, rhythmic stomping pop-rocker with a groovy beat and a smooth melody – a very good track. “Tragic Heroes” is much darker but it still rocks. It’s a bit mellower and melancholic with an underlying atmosphere that brings old The Cult meets U2 to mind. The mesmerizing melody and the addictive chorus makes this my fave track on the album so far – absolutely brilliant! “Go To Hell” is punchy and angry and it kicks up some dust for sure. This is hard rock with a small indie-rock chunk but still very direct and quite memorable. It’s good enough but my least favourite song on the album. They close the album with the taciturn piano & vocals ballad “The Boy Who Fooled The World”. The tune is stripped, honest, self exhaustively and very powerful. It’s a contrast to the rest of the album but it is a stunning track.
The deluxe edition offers four bonus track where on is a cover. The cover is non other than The Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)”. Ok, so I too believe it’s a real cool song and I have always loved it but unless you’re The Beastie Boys yourself it comes across as quite pointless. It’s not that the song is given a new life or something. The Gun originals are better, though. “20 Storeys” is a classic Gun blaster – big groove, a catchy rhythm that makes the song pulsate and swing. It’s very catchy and it’s too good to be just a bonus track. “Come Undone” is more of a quiet rocker with a pumping rhythm and a memorable main melody. The song is catchy without being hit-laden – a really good track. The last bonus track is “All I Really Need”, a pop song with its feet in the British mid 90’s. It’s an uptempo pop-rocker with a pretty distinct melody. It’s ok but not more. To purchase the deluxe edition isn’t a must and it depends much on how big a Gun fan you are.
As a whole, the album differs from the two previous records in style, which is a good thing, I think. I quite like the fact that Gun is a band that refuses to repeat themselves, it makes them unpredictable and interesting. The talk of them going back to the sound of their two first albums is somewhat exaggerated albeit not completely wrong. There are times when those albums comes to mind, but I think of this more as a direct hard rock album, Gun style, where mixes of old a new meet – and they do this very well. Because, as always, the standard is very high and the quality of the song writing is never compromised. It’s a darker and more authentic album where the focus is not on big choruses and a smooth production. It’s also not as direct as its two predecessors, this needs a few spins to grow but when it sticks, it really sticks. I still hold both Break The Silence and Frantic a notch higher than this album, but it’s still a damn fine record worth buying.
More Gun reviews:
1. She Knows
2. Here’s Where I Am
3. Favourite Pleasures
4. Take Me Down
5. Silent Lovers
6. Black Heart
7. Without You In My Life
8. Tragic Heroes
9. Go To Hell
10. The Boy Who Fooled The World
11. (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) (Bonus Track)
12. 20 Storeys (Bonus Track)
13. Come Undone (Bonus Track)
14. All I Really Need (Bonus Track)