‘Love, Drink & Death!’ is The Urban Voodoo Machine’s third album proper (‘Rare Gumbo’ was a compilation. Usually by the time a band gets to their third album, they tend to have fallen into one of two camps, firstly like The Ramones by the time of ‘Rocket To Russia’ they have locked into their own groove and so have a signature sound that is unique and will inform every future release, or, rather like The Clash at the time of ‘London Calling’ they have expanded their sonic template to take the band on new pathways, breaking new boundaries.
Crucially, with ‘Love, Drink & Death!’, The Urban Voodoo Machine have managed to plant a foot firmly in both camps, in that with this latest release, they are exploring new sounds and new styles of music, while at the same time any track on the album could never be mistaken for anyone else, their brand of Bourbon Soaked Gypsy Blues Bop ‘N’ Stroll runs solidly throughout and gives them a sound like no other.
Like their previous two studio albums, there are no duff tracks, and certainly no filler. Why? Because many of the tracks on this album have been ‘road tested’ at various gigs up and down the country to ensure perfection. I personally have been present at the gigs where I was privileged to witness the first airings of ‘Loretta’s Revenge’ and also ‘Don’t Mess With The Hat’.
The album opens with ‘Your Hour Of Darkness’ a raucous rockabilly styled track that leaps out of the speakers faster and more furiously than a greyhound out of the traps. The lyrics include contributions by the late Sam Powell, who was bass player in lead singer P-R’s earlier band Q-Sling, and part of the touring line-up of The Godfathers. The song is uplifting, and acts as good advice: – “Give it your best shot, and always stay true/ And in your hour of darkness, I’ll be waiting for you”.
All sixteen (yes sixteen) tracks fall within one of three categories, just like the title of the album suggests, these are all songs about love, drink and death.
In respect of new sounds, the track ‘Captain Of A Sinking Ship’ is a sheer delight, with its overt blues style and a great guitar riff that references John Lee Hooker’s ‘Boogie Chillen’, and the foot stomps to give it a nostalgic feel, without being retro or falling into parody. ‘Sharkwaters’ is a field holler and features Jim Jones ably assisting on vocals, and ‘Hid The Bottle’ is a slice of classic rock ‘n’ roll.
Tracks that will really please both long term fans and newbies alike, are ‘Not With You’ and ‘Crazy Maria’, both of which have been a live favourites at gigs for the last eighteen months or so. But for me, where the band really punch above their weight is on the slower songs, the excellent murder ballad ‘Loretta’s Revenge’, a dark tale of a woman who does away with her abusive husband and has to pay the price. This features Adrian Stout on saw, which gives the track an eerie haunting quality, so much so that you easily lose yourself in its near seven minute length. Equally, ‘Goodnight My Dear’, a wonderful tender ballad with a New Orleans funeral sound shows that the band can do just about anything to perfection.
The album features the singles ‘Pipe & Slippers Man’, and an extended version of ‘Help Me Jesus’ with Wilko Johnson on guitar, both of which show how Paul-Ronney Angel’s clever songwriting blends perfectly with the band’s accomplished musicianship. This album has already created a stir, with positive reviews in The Guardian and Classic Rock, which can only serve to gain a wider audience for the band, and with an album this strong, they certainly deserve to reap the rewards.
By Nick Browne
10 out of 10