“Atomic playboys, we are radiation Romeos…”. Ring a bell, anyone? For you who don’t hear the bell chime, that’s the first line in the chorus of the song “Atomic Playboys” by Billy Idol’s guitarist Steve Stevens’ own band with the same name, a band he formed after leaving Idol’s band back in 1988. Atomic Playboys released only one album, their self-titled debut in 1989, a real pity as the album was very good and there were plenty of us who believed that the band would have made it big if they had toughened things out for just a bit longer. The album wasn’t a complete failure sales wise but my guess is that everyone involved, both band and record company, had hoped for a huge selling album. For that project, Stevens had recruited frontman / lead singer Parramore McCarthy from the band Warrior, another band that got some rave reviews for their debut album Fighting For The World in 1985 but failed and drummer Thommy Price (Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Billy Idol, Scandal) with Stevens handling all guitars and bass himself. But grand musical talent, cool looks and great songs aren’t always the recipe for success, you need luck too and maybe Atomic Playboys just weren’t meant to last. Stevens himself has called the project “a very expensive hobby”, so I guess a second try will never happen.
Since Atomic Playboys called it quits, I haven’t heard anything from McCarty at all but apparently he put together a new version of Warrior with guitarist / producer Roy Z (Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford), but that version never took off either. Come 2017 and the news that Frontiers Records had signed a new band called Radiation Romeos and said bell rang loudly in my head. Of course, it was a new project by McCarty and the nod towards his Atomic Playboys days is very obvious. With a new gang of musicians – Dag Heyne on guitars, Jogi Spittka on bass and Gereon Homann on drums (I’m totally clueless of who they are and what they have done before this) – McCarty went to work and for me, I was very curious to find out whether the only thing Atomic Playboys connected was the band’s name and McCarty himself or if the music would be a continuation of that album as well.
The album opens with the title track and the tune is more or less a sister song to “Atomic Playboys” – straight forward melodic hard rock, powerful with a good punch and a chorus that rises to the occasion – a very good song that bodes well for the rest of the album. But already by the second song “Ocean Drive”, McCarty and the band has put the Atomic Playboys sound behind them with an uptempo AOR-rock tune with a huge pop vibe. The song is super catchy and has a melody that I surrendered to from go. It’s one of those “summer songs” that gives you the feeling of sitting in a car, going off with the top-lift down and the wind blowing in your face – how awesome! “Bad Bad Company” is heavier with a kick-ass groove, a bit sleazy with a big late 80’s feel and a cocky melody that hits where it should. “Mystic Mountain” comes with a steady groove. It’s a pop song in a rock disguise that contains a good enough melody but it’s a bit too middle-of-the-road and it’s not memorable enough. It’s not bad, though. “Like An Arrow” is the album’s big power ballad, very bombastic and chart-friendly with a chorus that gets you in its grip and refuses to let go no matter if you like it or not – very authentic. If you have a soft spot for those kind of songs, you’ll love this one. I know I do anyway.
“Promised Land” comes in a slower pace, a bit dark and moody and somewhat heavy with a pumping bass and a steady rhythm. The chorus is floating and seductive yet catchy and memorable – awesome. “Castaways” is a straight forward melodic rock track with a catchy enough melody and even though it’s a catchy tune it never really takes off and I have a hard time remember anything of it when it’s finished. “Ghost Town” is a mellow, acoustic guitar based camp-fire cowboy song. It does have a swagger and it is groovy and I like it even though I don’t find it amazing by any means – a good song no more, no less. “Til The End Of Time” might have a title used one or ten times too many, but this uptempo AOR-rocker is a damn good one and the chorus sticks right away and puts me in a very good mood. “On The Tight Rope” is a straight forward, in-your-face heavy grooved hard rocker with a sleazy beat and it hits really well – a very good song. Closing number “Monstertraxx” is bad-ass and aggressive yet sleazy and raw with a stomping groove made for the stage. The effective melody and ballsy chorus catches on really hard – a great song to close this record with.
So how much of a musical connection between Radiation Romeos and Atomic Playboys do we get here then? Well, in many ways, this album feels like a Steve Stevens-less follow up to the Atomic Playboys album. Many of the arrangements sounds like they have been made with that album in mind and in the way many of the melodies are built. However, it’s still not a carbon copy album we have here and it feels very much like Radiation Romeos have lots of potential to stand on their own. Quality wise there are a few fillers too many here but at the same time it has a lot of damn good rockers that will probably satisfy melodic hard rock fans everywhere. McCarty have always been a damn fine singer with a very personal voice and the rest of the band make a faultless contribution. It’s not a spectacular album by any means but it does its job and I know that I won’t forget about this record anytime soon. A good hard rock album, to make a long story short.
1. Radiation Romeos
2. Ocean Drive
3. Bad Bad Company
4. Mystic Mountain
5. Like An Arrow
6. Promised Land
8. Ghost Town
9. Til The End Of Time
10. On The Tight Rope