Under The Volcano – The John E Vistic Rock ‘n’ Roll Sound System (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Shocking! That certainly is the word. Shocking that I didn’t explore and embrace John E Vistic‘s sonic charms years ago. After all, he has rubbed shoulders, collaborated and generally been a creative force for good alongside so many artists that have been close to my heart, some for longer than I care to mention.

People like James Ray, (he of Gang War and Sisterhood fame) The Marc Ford Band (the driving force behind the criminally overlooked Burning Tree) and those alt-pop goths Rachel Stamp. Add to that his musical posse these days features Rob Norbury from Candy Darling and Tom Hackwell, who I knew back in the heady days of Armchair Committee and I’m almost sold on the idea before note issues forth from the speaker.

But talk is cheap and names are there to be dropped and the real proof comes from lowering the virtual needle on the digital disc. And when I do, I realise that opening track Sublime is perfectly named. This is the bluesy, bastard son of rock ‘n’ roll. Raw and raucous, visceral and vicious, its garage rock boiled down to its sticky essence.

Evoking such classic acts as The Gun Club and The Jim Jones Revue and trading in blasted blues, punk energy and the sort of low-slung, foot-on-the-monitor, rock and roll which is so rare in these days of conformity and corporate subservience, it comes on like a breath of, perhaps not fresh, but hot, steaming, claustrophobic, sweaty and fetid air and is all the more welcome for being so.

Psycho Death Cult laces razor wire guitars through a dense sonic landscape, one built of relentless beats and bass pulses, Heart in Danger is all tumbling, tribal drums and staccato punctuations of guitar shards and Rattlesnake is suitable dangerous, like a shot of venomous rock and roll that goes straight to the heart, cocooning the senses and blurring reality. There’s even room for an almost Bowie-esque acoustic swansong to round things off.

It’s probably a bit early to start talking about my favourite albums of the year but when that time comes I’d be surprised if Under The Volcano isn’t somewhere near the top. If it doesn’t make it to that list then it will have been a phenomenally good year for music. Sounds like a win-win to me.

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