Okay, cards on table time; I love Grifter.
There I said it.
I have been a fan since almost the very beginning – I have their ‘Elephantine’ EP with crappy green card photocopied sleeve; I have it on the more swanky psychedelic colour cover; the ‘High Unholy Mighty Rollin’ EP and my friend is doing his best to pretend he hasn’t had their ‘Simplicity Of The Riff Is Key’ release for over a year… this is not an attempt to out fanboy anyone, but to highlight the fact that I know my Grifter; have seen them many times – good and bad – and as a result (for me) a full length is a watershed moment in the bands development.
Can they expand beyond a handful of tracks and keep momentum? Is there more to them than a kick ass live show?
I liken this band to restoring a classic car; You take something glorious from the past and lovingly bring it back to life, making it shiny and as good as new but adding a modern twist here and there, like air con or a stereo that receives more than Classic FM. This is what Grifter have been doing to the blues ever since I have known them, getting a little bit more refined, a little more tuned, a little bit more ready to line up on the street with a hot woman draped over it and that’s just the way they like it… er yeah, should probably ditch the car theme now and get on with it…
First off, before I talk about the explosive start that is ‘Good Day For Bad News’ I have to take my hat off to Rich Robinson for the sterling work behind the desk; I own albums on major labels that I would kill for to have a production as good as this. In the past they have been served well by their turns in the studio, but this one leaves the others in the dust. Every note thrums with energy, the drums crash, the bass is audible and nothing over powers the rest. It is the perfect platform to deliver Grifter’s philosophy of getting girls to shake their ass and dudes to rock the fuck out.
Right on cue the first track smacks you right between the eyes – this is the live Grifter crawling out of your stereo – high octane and catchier than a hungry spider in a jar full of flies. What strikes me is how all the players here have upped their game considerably. Having endured them in many a dingy club with minimal (if any) sound check or PA it is incredible to actually hear the full experience and Ollie will kill me for saying this but it is a revelation to actually hear him sing so damn well. I have always admired his ability as a frontman to get the crowd going but I never realised until now the guy has such a great classic rock voice as well.
This is the big difference between this and past releases. Previously the band have served the stoner/doom tag well and been faithful to the influence, but here they have let go and decided to let all the myriad of influences and ambitions be realised and why not? If you are going to do something do the best you can right?
On this album you get hand clapping augmenting the percussion on ‘Bucktooth Woman’, a shaker on ‘Preacher And The Devil’ and the emotional stripped down acoustic ballad of ‘Gone Blues’ – personally I didn’t see them coming, but this multi dimensional version of Grifter is as welcome a surprise as finding you’ve got a tenner left in your wallet after a night out on the piss.
That’s not to say that fans of the old Grifter will go home hungry, there are still plenty of huge chunky riffs, crashing drums, rumbling bass and in tongue in cheek rockers like ‘Alabama Hotpocket’, ‘Strip Club’ all steeped in smut, whiskey sodden rock and blues heritage where you can hear the joy that went into these songs. Then there are the more emotional tracks like ‘Young Blood, Old Veins’ which is the quintessential Grifter anthem in waiting with it’s clock’s tickin, but I’m not listenin’ refrain. This album reeks of fun and it is incredibly infectious; I rarely have found myself enjoying an album for the first time as much as I did hearing them cut loose and kick out the jams.
On this album the guys have accepted that the only people they need to please is themselves and frankly it’s about time they decided to just let it all out. Rather than retread the same old path as so many bands tend to do they have opened themselves up and have become a classic rock band – kind of like an updated ZZ Top having a drag race with Thin Lizzy and Clutch (there goes that car analogy again…).
On the strength of this as a manifesto for rock n roll being about having a good time Grifter deserve your vote.
Listen to ‘A Good day For Bad News’ taken from their self titled album below.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden