Picture the moment. It was 1989, the grunge scene was in its infancy, hair metal was at its height, and the only heavy rock show on the telly was in the early hours of a Saturday or Sunday morning. It was on one of those rock shows, Raw Power I think, that I first heard a band that would soon become one of my favourites of all time. I knew nothing about the five guys from Glasgow, but as soon as I saw the black & white intro for ‘Better Days’ I was hooked! GUN had a fresh sound, a classic rock look in their leather and denim jackets and biker boots, and an attitude that endeared them to me straight away. Soon after, the 15th June 1989, I saw them for the first time of many, at The Boardwalk in Manchester. 26 years, five albums, a long hiatus from ’97 to ’08 and numerous line-up changes later, GUN are back with ‘Frantic’, their strongest album since the classic ‘Swagger’ from 1994.
Brothers Dante and Jools Gizzi continue to be the mainstays from their 1989 debut ‘Taking on the World’. Dante, having retired his bass and taken over vocal duties for the past 4 years, confirms on ‘Frantic’ that he’s the right man for the job, and the perfect front man to take GUN back the heights they held all those years ago.
‘Let it Shine’ opens the album in superb fashion, with its gospel style intro and pop/rock melodies. This upbeat stomper certainly sets the feel-good tone for the rest of the album. Lead single ‘Labour of Life’ kicks off with a punky, Iggy Pop like vocal, riff and drum beat (courtesy of one of the best live drummers I’ve ever seen and one of the reasons GUN are still able to produce this kind of quality, Paul McManus), before, again hitting us with a melodious yet hard hitting chorus that will have the GUN faithful pogoing down the front on their forthcoming UK tour. The guys then show their contemporary side by going all Royal Blood on us for ‘Beautiful Smile’. If the aforementioned popular duo had recorded this, then it would be a huge hit! There’s no reason why it can’t be for these five rockers either!
Lead guitar duties are shared between Jools and former El Presidente (Dante’s band during GUN’s hiatus. Check them out!) member Johnny Mcglynn. Although I currently don’t know who played which guitar part on the album, both did a fantastic job.
I first heard ‘One Wrong Turn’ a couple of years ago when the band were testing out a few of their newly written songs in a live environment. It was obvious then that it was strong enough to make it onto the album and it definitely converted eminently. Another live favourite in the making. ‘Our Time’ keeps up the feel-good factor and, even though I can’t imagine it being anyone’s favourite track on the album, I defy anybody not to tap your feet along to its infectious groove. Title track ‘Frantic’ is a strange song for me. Initially, I thought it was the weakest track on a very strong album yet, the more I hear it, the more I like it, and I can see it becoming one of my favourites! Give it a listen yourself and see what you think.
‘Hold Your Head Up’ is probably my favourite track. It has a majestic melody, a sing-a-long chorus and takes the feel-good factor to another level. It starts with just a piano and Dante’s vocals, turns into a perfect rock/pop tune and ends, again, with the same piano/ Dante combination. My only criticism is that it’s too short! A song as good as this should at least be of ‘November Rain’ proportions! ‘Big City’ reminds me of another song, by another artist, that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’ll come to me at some point. Or at least it should do after the relentless plays this album is getting!
The biggest surprise on ‘Frantic’ is the reworking of ‘Seraphina’. A song that has been knocking around for many many years and was first recorded on the ‘Popkiller’ mini album in 2009. The opening riff has changed slightly, and obviously the vocals, but the whole feel of the song has more guts. Especially the guitar solo and the rocky outro. A great idea to put it on the album and, I’m sure, this is the way the band intended it to sound all along.
After nine killer, no filler, tracks, I expected GUN to come up with a cracker to close this majestic new release, and you know what, they did! ‘Never Knew What I Had’ is the kind of song that, as soon as it ends, you want to listen to again, and again, and again. It starts off at a slow pace, moves nicely through a couple of choruses, and then builds to a crescendo that leaves you with a great feeling within (see what I did there?).
‘Frantic’ is a triumphant album that should, if everything was fair in the world, propel GUN back to the heights of their heyday. Dante, Jools, Paul, Johnny and Andy, take a bow.
1. Let It Shine
2. Labour Of Life
3. Beautiful Smile
4. One Wrong Turn
5. Our Time
7. Hold Your Head Up
8. Big City
10. Never Knew What I Had