El Camino  –  Stone Padre (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

When you first hear the riff and the vocal theatrics that lead into Wake Up and Dance, you can be sure of a few things. This is an American band, this is a band who aren’t afraid to write big, anthemic songs and this is an album that could go one of two ways. Either it ends up in an ego-massaging display of show-boating, more style than substance or it could end up going down a more accessible route. It all really depends on if they have the songs to back up their obvious technical skills. Even by the end of that first song you find yourself relaxing in the knowledge that they definitely have the songs.

El Camino is an album that keeps itself in check by breaking out from traditional rock boundaries. Sure it pulses with an inescapable rock heartbeat but it uses melody and an almost pop infectiousness to avoid the cliche and bluster that the genre is known for. Pop melody meets rock muscle and they are tied on points.

Songs such as Boom balance heavy guitars with spacious dynamics, Wild in the Sheets is the perfect cross over rock song, one that ticks all the foot on the monitor requirements of the faithful but is approachable enough that a wider audience can get behind it and Make Rain is the most groovesome thing you will hear this year. Fact!

Taste seems to blend seventies classic rock hallmarks with a slick modern vibe, sultry, bluesy deliveries and a hypnotic swirl of rock ‘n’ roll, Jade goes for a heady and intoxicating psychedelic delivery matching occidental rock with oriental roll and Push is full to the brim with Zeppelin-esque rhythms and Purple patches, Deep ones at that.

But of course you know that you are in safe hands, you just have to look at the resume of the people involved in bringing this album to life. Combining duties as both drummer and producer, Ryan Vikedal, of both Dallas Smith and Nickelback fame has really returned to the public consciousness with this record since being dismissed by the latter band some years previously. The intricate and exquisite guitar work comes courtesy of ex-Colt Ford and  Suitcase Pimps six stringer Bad Brad and if vocalist Kendra Chantelle looks and sounds familiar you will have seen her in Season 10 of American Idol.

It would be very easy to dismiss this as just another rock album, one that tips its hat to eighties excesses and fist in the air stadium audiences. And maybe it is all that but it is more than that too and the difference is the strength of the songwriting and the arrangements. Even when they are going hell for leather it is the clever textures and the deft layers of sound that keep the music intriguing. Take a song like Spy on U, it is full of big staccato riffs, big beats and sky scraping vocals, but it is also filled with clever motifs and slick detail and dynamically wanders between low end minimalism and wonderfully busy punch.

If rock is to survive it needs to move with the times. Sometimes that means finding new paths to take it down, new sounds to fuse with but sometimes it is simply about taking familiar ways of working, honouring past traditions, retaining that essence and bringing it bang up to date. Evolution not revolution! Stone Padre is the sound of evolution. It is easy to see where they are coming from, but it is where they are going that is the intriguing prospect.

Find the album on the following platforms – El Camino

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