It’s incredible to remember now what a little rock ‘n’ roll band from Glasgow could achieve back then. This is a band, let’s not forget, who had a string of top 30 hits, an MTV award and tours with The Rolling Stones and Bon Jovi. and they weren’t alone. Back in the mid 90’s bands like Gun, Thunder and Little Angels were accidental pop stars. I say accidental because none of them were anything other than very traditional honest to goodness rock ‘n’ rollers. No eye liner, revolving drum kits or ostentatious drug habits to attract the world’s attention. So what did they have? Tunes, my friends, tunes.
There was a sudden flourishing in Britain of young, talented, hard working musicians who would rather be Free than Kiss. They made their way onto Radio 1 because they toured like hell and made a lot of rock fans turn away from America for a while and appreciate what they had on their doorsteps. Of course, it couldn’t last, these things never do and Gun split in 1998 after their fourth album didn’t match the career high of “Swagger”.
The Gizzi brothers, who went onto further success with El Presidente, are the only survivors of the 90’s incarnation put the band back together in 2008 for a Nordoff-Robbins Music charity do and have been slowly finding their way back ever since. Bizarrely, (to my mind anyway) Toby Jepson of the Little Angels toured as vocalist for a while but now Dante Gizzi has assumed the role. Now, I’ve nothing against Jepson‘s voice but he seemed an ill-fitting replacement for Mark Rankin who had a much deeper, less rawk, voice. I was relieved then to hear Jepson wasn’t singing on this album, but was still ready to decry the absence of Rankin. Gun fans, fear not Dante does a fine job. Even more of a surprise is just how good “Break The Silence” is. There are plenty of bands who’s “Best of…” albums consist of less great songs than exist on this hardly anticipated comeback!
It all begins with ‘Butcher Man’, which is the sonic equivalent of a charm offensive. Good time piano, sassy female backing vocals and battering ram drums. It’s a good opener made more promising by Dante‘s vocals which are like a less manic Axl Rose. Not at all like Mark Rankin‘s then, but I was so swept up in the goodwill Gun create that I instantly didn’t care.
I was already nervously looking forward to track 2 ’14 Stations’ before ‘Butcher Man’ ended. It’s a good opener, with a great in your face production from Dave Erigna, but you’re tempted to wonder whether Gun can back it up. Well, ’14 Stations’ immediately puts your worries to bed. It’s a stronger song and the first of many you’ll find yourself singing on the bus. It has a great urgent guitar riff and and struts and shimmies like a cross between The Cult and Cheap Trick.
Guess what? The next song’s even better! A stone cold, radio rock classic. “Lost & Found” is how Guns N’ Roses would sound if they lightened up and polished up their pop chops. The Manic‘s “Gold Against The Soul” era without the angst. It’s sweeping strings, hand claps and HUGE chorus are total ear candy. If it doesn’t put a smile on your face then you must be dead inside.
I could go on gushing like this about nearly every track but I think you get the picture. Special mentions though to a couple more biggies – “No Substitute” nicks the melody to Steve Winwood‘s “Valerie” and melds it into a piece of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers style winsome classic rock. Another huge chorus too. Then there’s “Innocent Thieves” which again sees Dante channelling Axl Rose whilst the band create another great big yearning, misty-eyed rock epic. This one has the hairs on my arms standing on end every time.
Oh, and just try and stop me praising the closer “Last Train To Central” which is surely a lost Cheap Trick stormer. Dante even has the slightly slurred, behind the beat vocal style of Robin Zander.
Okay, I asked to review this album as I was a fan so my views could be coloured by that. However, I was prepared to be very disappointed. Fourteen years is a very long time to be away and this could have been a weak and insignificant echo of past triumphs.
Well, to borrow an old sporting adage; form is temporary, class is permanent.