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Human Traffic – Richard Davies and The Dissidents (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

If we were moving in political circles, this is the point where I would have to “declare an interest,” as they say, in Richard Davies and The Dissidents. Hailing from the same neck of the woods means that I have always been aware of his music through bands such as cool indie-popsters Tiny Monroe, the short lived Imps, the band he is perhaps most associated with, The Snakes, and his musical wanderings through the CCR back catalogue with the perfectly named Creedence Clearwater Revival Revival.

But in all that time, Richard Davis has always remained a Mick Ronson-type figure, the perfect sonic side kick to a number of great frontpersons. Human Traffic is that long-overdue moment when he steps into the centre stage spotlight.

You only have to listen to his previous work, The Snakes in particular, to get an understanding of where he’s coming from. In that body of work the great and the good of the sleazier end of rock ’n’ roll spring to mind, from such players as Keef and Thunders, from bands such as Hanoi Rocks and Tom Petty. It’s a familiar path but of course the art of walking it is to tip your hat to the past but to stride confidently into the future, to mix familiarity with freshness. Human Traffic manages to tick all of those boxes.

The titular, opening salvo sets the scene perfectly, wonderfully loose and slightly louche, low-slung rock and roll, softened by washes of organ and sweet harmonies, somehow brash yet sonically affable at the same time. The perfect (wild) cards to play. 21st Century Man is a searing indictment of some of the inhabitants of the modern world delivered with a Ramones like sneer and (Long Road) To Your Heart rings with the echoes of Mott the Hoople’s wide-screen majesty. And between such songs the band swagger and groove, rock, and indeed roll, cut raw-edged swaths and conjure sweet harmony.

Richard Davies has timed things perfectly. He has gathered a great bunch of musicians around him, he has the songs and he has made the album which we always knew that he had in him. It was certainly worth the wait. It is rock’n’roll rather than rock (and if you don’t understand the difference then perhaps it isn’t for you) it is spacious enough to let the light in when it chooses and perfectly blended with sonic textures when the song requires more weight (if you think that impact has anything to do with volume, again, perhaps you should keep on moving). 

If you understand the connection between blues, the 60’s bands who electrified it, both literally and metaphorically, the origins of punk, especially the New York end of things, and why those sounds refuse to go away, then Human Traffic is going to be exactly your cup of Java, probably one laced with a secretive nip of Bourbon for good measure.

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