There’s an art to writing an album that manages to hook you in from the very start. You know the sort of thing… you find yourself breaking into a smile as you listen, and then has you singing along with a deluge instantly memorable choruses. It’s never easy to predict when this musical buzz will strike, and sometimes it comes from the most unexpected of places.
You ever heard of Rhino’s Revenge then? John ‘Rhino’ Edwards?? Well if not you may be familiar with his “day job”, as the long time bassist with recently resurgent Rock’n’Roll legends Status Quo. He’s been a permanent fixture with the ‘Quo since 1987, and it’s 15 years since John released his debut solo album, so this follow up has been a loooong time coming.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the man who powers the ‘Quo engine room wouldn’t wander far from his usual musical territory, and it’s fair to say that a lot of Rhino’s Revenge II is route one Rock’n’Roll with nothing in the way of pretensions or unnecessary fripperies. The album was recorded in what Rhino describes as “11 days of pure magic” in rural Lincolnshire, “We went flat out, so we didn’t have time to get precious about anything.”
It’s a family affair too, with sons Max and Freddie and daughter Mae all chipping in to help their old man play “Rhino Rock, Thug Rock, Animal Rock, Heavy Rock, Pop Rock, but with the main focus on the lyrics and the songs. It’s rabble-rousing rock ‘n roll.”
Things kick off with Tomorrow Is Today, a song about giving up drugs that sets Rhino’s stall out early on, he has a sharp eye for the state of the world and clearly has an opinion on most things, be it consumerism (New New New) or the scourge of “celebrity”, and a vacuous culture where people are “Famous for being, Famous for being, Famous for being Famous”.
Don’t think that means this is a preachy or ranty album though, almost everything is delivered with such a bright, cheery wit and charm that it’s impossible not to crack a smile at various points throughout the album. All The Girls Love A Bastard (for every one that doesn’t, there’s 20 that d0), Secretary (She used my Dictaphone) and Cougar all raise a smile, but the highlight in the “LOL” scale has to be Stan, a touching ode to man’s best friend”. The Rock’n’Roll rhythms here are pure Quo, but I can’t imagine Messers Rossi and Parfitt penning lyrics like “I lick my balls, because I can, you don’t mess with Stan the Man”.
Yep, and if you expect this to 50 minutes of the same sort of stuff, then think again. There’s heavy blues, out and out Rock and even, surprisingly, Eminem-esqe hip hop for All The Girls Love A Bastard.
For all the lighthearted observations throughout the album, there is a dark undertone too. Black Widow talks about Chechen suicide bombers, “bodies wrapped in sheets” and the prophetic warning “What’s over there is coming over here”.
Bloody good chorus though.
Rhino’s Revenge II has become an instant favourite here at CB, there’s just something immediately engaging and immensely likeable about the whole thing. The end result is one of the most enjoyable albums we’ve heard in yonks and an unexpected entry into my top 10 of 2015 list..