"Forget Batman and Robin. The Graveltones are The Dynamic Duo for the 21st century. Jimmy and Mikey deliver the most exciting, musical, and texturally compelling sounds of any duo I've had the pleasure of listening to (and jamming with) in a very long time!" ~ Elliott RandallMy problem with most duos is the fact they're often not great players, singers, or performers. In fact, that's been my gripe with shitloads of rock for way too long, but the tide is turning, and The Graveltones have shown me the light - these guys have mad skills, they write catchy rock, play their asses off, and what do you know, the guy can even sing.
That guy is Jimmy O, who handle the guitars and vocals, and he's driven to his madness by the thunderous, but precise bashing of drummer Mikey Sorbello. They're creating a hell of an effective stew - I'm hearing some Zep, a boatload of T. Rex, and even some early G&R, and that's just in the first tune, Bang Bang. O is a wicked six-stringer, he manages to carry the show with fat, aggressive riffs and inventive pointed soloing. He also has great pipes - he swoons and sweeps in and out of song sections, and always returns to a solid, gritty baritone that jumps out of the mix.
Bang Bang leads off, and the die is cast - a brutish riff kicks things off, and O is immediately throwing down righteously loud rhythms and weaving a melody over the top that delivers on the promise of the Bowery's best rockers from the seventies. Johnny Thunders may have sounded this good had he laid off the junk, but when this pair go into the best breakdown since Aerosmith's first record, the train just keeps a rollin'. This is half big city, half rootsy-rockin' blues madness with some incredible flourishes that go glam.
These two Australians didn't know one another when they landed in London and fell into a jam that lead to instant gigging, but they sound like they're connected at the hip musically - Forget About The Trouble is over too soon, with it's tight unison guitar and vocal riffs - Jimmy O has heaps of star quality, and he takes great command of every moment as Sorbello not once allows things to slow down.
Big beat rock - this stuff sounds huge, and while it starts off lo-fi, the bass drums and hi-hats instantly thrust Dying On Your Feet back to a time when drums sounded huge, precise, and as they should. The footwork here is astounding, and O is fabulous at coming up with one great riff after another, and then he takes a one note solo that leads into an end of times interlude that then goes into some calliope craziness before returning to the brontosaurus beat - Classic Rock Magazine got it right when they called this bunch one of the best new bands of 2013.
St. Lucia sounds like what I always wanted The Stooges to sound. Punk as fuck, but with a sense of style and precision that Iggy's lot could never really muster. This sounds like a Coltrane blast set to rock, and sent down to the infirmary. Again, I hear a similarity to the days when Steven Tyler had such a command of his genre - this has all the swagger, and an updated structure that is very today. When the pair go into the breakdown there's some otherworldly vocals weaving around the big beats, and then O unleashes a whammy-infused solo that is out but in.
This pair sound like no one but themselves at the end of the day - I make comparisons so you can hear what I'm writing to - that's the best way I can find to communicate the wonderful noise going on here. Money is a tune that makes the case - both musicians are playing leagues above much of what I hear from day to day, and with an originality that makes me smile. Even when they're being experimental, they are still engaging and keeping my attention front and center.
Crime To Be Talkin' is a cinematic tale that starts slowly, cleanly, and as the story gets more involved so does the music. Sorbello is a master of mixing it up - he's hitting everything in sight, and all at the right time - when the guitars get loud and Jimmy O goes into some of his farthest reaching vocal gymnastics of the album he lays back into a big backbeat that fits perfectly. Dynamics are on the menu, and The Graveltones are steeped in the art.
Lightning Bolt is a full out rocker that sounds huge, but not too covered in mush, or in any way shrill or harsh. O's guitar tones are filthy and full, but still well defined and unobtrusive. His solo is straight from the good book of Jimmy Page, and I gotta think the master would be pleased. Fuzz has never sounded better, and his playing is as on point as his tones. Thrilling.
Dulcet keyboards ring in I Am A Liar, and O is singing from behind a bit of time-shifted distortion that keeps things somewhat psychotic - half Ian Hunter/half Alice Cooper? A great piece of songwriting. Nothing else on the album sounds like this, and I can't wait to hear more, though I'm not even through with the debut.
You're No Good is heavy as hell, with some more great drum work, and vocal tricks that you're not expecting - they never quite play it straight and take the easy way out, they tweak, twist, and turn everything around to keep it exciting - a huge success.
A bit of rock-a-billy madness jumps out on Catch Me On The Fly - the guitars are gritty and dirty, but this still manages to swing like mad as Mikey Sorbello again takes command of the rhythmic thrust. I keep forgetting that this is a two piece, and that's amazing - they never fall into a rut, and they keep coming up with hook after hook after hook.
Never Going Back is another dime store detective novel type tale that jumps from genre to genre as the drums, vocals, and guitars all compete for attention. Slick production ideas come off well as voices and choirs come and go while the exuberant rock flows like molten lava into a sinister section that gets swept away by a big rock ending.
Epic ending? Sure, why not. Six Billion gets the slow setup before some noise bombs start going off through the mix - it's suspense at its best, and when Jimmy O lays out the tale amongst the ruins, he's walking through an arrangement that leads straight into rock 'n' roll Armageddon. This is a great ending as it restates the records various premises, and leaves me wanting to hear a bunch more.
Rock Ain't Near Dead - it's become my mantra, and I've never been more sure. The Graveltones certainly made that clear this afternoon. Run out and buy this one - it's out October 21 on Lagoon Dog Records.