When Thunder announced they were to split after they had finished the touring cycle for 2008’s excellent “Bang!” album the temptation to knock their heads together and cry “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?” was overwhelming to say the least. But once vocalist Danny Bowes had got the urge to become a booking agent out of his system it was announced the band would be returning to active duty after a series of gigs and, four years later, our patience has been reward with “Wonder Days”, the band’s 10th studio album in a quarter-of-a-century of splitting up and getting back together.
But sarcasm aside, what taking time out does for a band is recharge their batteries and give them a bit more focus and the opening title track certainly has the feel of a band rejuvenated, with guitarist Luke Morley‘s urgent riff resembling a sped-up ‘She’s So Fine’ before Danny Bowes chimes in with that voice and begins a tale of growing up and discovering music. The song soon settles down into familiar territory, the whole thing not too far off ‘She’s So Fine’ in terms of structure but less romantic and more nostalgic, although Bowes sells it well with his strong delivery. ‘The Thing I Want’ also treads a familiar path, being upbeat, chock-full of vocal hooks and a likely future live staple but it doesn’t ever go anywhere that the band haven’t been before, and what made “Bang!” and previous album “Robert Johnson’s Tombstone” so delicious was the feeling that the band weren’t content with duplicating their early material.
So it is “The Rain” that offers a little bit of a side-step, an acoustic led semi-ballad that has the air of a sea shanty about it, and shows that Danny Bowes reading out the shipping forecast could be a future career move (when they next split up…).
From there on in the album hits all of the usual marks with one or two notable exceptions, like the sleazy ‘Chasing Shadows’ and the more bombastic ‘When the Music Played’ both standing out as highlights. However, also notable are tracks like the limp mid-’90s radio-rock of ‘Resurrection Day’, which sounds like an album bonus track that somehow got mixed up in the main tracklisting without anybody noticing. Closing track ‘I Love the Weekend’ has a Dave Edmunds-meets-Led Zeppelin rock n’ roll thing going on that finishes things of with a very welcome burst of energy, leaving you hoping that this finishing point will be the starting point next time – if there is a next time.
Overall, “Wonder Days” is a solid album but it does feel a little too safe. The best moments are the ones where the band deviate from the template laid down by their classic debut “Backstreet Symphony” and go off in a blues-infused haze of slippery riffs, as they do on ‘Chasing Shadows’, or tap into their inner Queen with the slightly eccentric ‘Serpentine’. But if not all of the songs are top drawer Thunder classics it’s safe to say that performance-wise the band sound on top of their game and hopefully the upcoming live dates will give some of these songs a bit more life.