I often think that I was born too late. Yes, that’s a thought inspired by the Saint Vitus album. I mean, I have all the makings of a dirty hippie. As much as I enjoy all the modernity I’m subject to, I could live an eternity on bands from and inspired by the late 60s through the 70s. For my dad, that would have been the golden age of musical discovery (age 10-25); but he mostly passed by the bands I dig from that era. Hence, there are no old Black Sabbath records lying around the house. Sure, I’m rambling but I’m setting the stage for Check ’em Before You Wreck ’em, the new album from Hastings, England’s Admiral Sir Cloudesly Shovell. I’m not saying they’re dirty hippies. See, I figure they were born too late as well but they’ve done something about it.
Whenever I listen to The Shovell (easily two dozen times and counting) I’m taken back to a magical time where everything cool from ’65 to ’75 has coalesced into the essence of this band. Press materials mention Sir Lord Baltimore (I really need to check them out) and Budgie (Fuck ya!) but the references go deeper than that. Shovell’s brand of shit-kickin’ rock ‘n’ roll reeks of gritty attitude and tubular amplification. One can hear the power of The Who, the swagger of The Stones, and the bluesy swing of Led Zeppelin filtered through the crunch of MC5 and punctuated by screaming and soulful solos that would make Hendrix proud.
By and large Check ’em is incredibly upbeat. The live energy the trio gives off forces the listener to get physical in a dance-like-no-one-is-watching way. There’s so much bounce, swing and groove to tracks like “Happiness Begins”, “Do It Now”, and “Bulletproof” that you’ll be shakin’ your booty without even realizing it.
As much as The Shovell burn with a full tank of high-octane petrol they can also coast on the vibe and let things breathe a bit on a psychedelic trip, but usually they fire the motor back up to return home to a smoky pub serving stale lager and cheap whiskey that doubles as a mod club on weekends. Both “Captain Merriweather” and “Late Night Mornings” have parts that remind one of Bowie but still have parts suited to grisly bikers married to their Deep Purple records.
Vocalist/guitarist Johnny Gorilla comes across as incredibly charismatic behind the mic, even giving off an Iggy Pop vibe, and as the consummate riff master bleeds vintage-ness and a loose approach throughout. The balanced production allows for the killer rhythm section to grab their fair share of the attention. Louis Comfort-Wiggett’s bass is fat and prominent, silky smooth and groovy with a capital “G”. He’s obviously studied his Geezer Butler. Drummer Bill Darlington balances a jazzy swing with muscularity. His hybrid of Buddy Rich’s swift wrists and Keith Moon’s cymbal-crashing gusto is captivating. He’s almost like the UK version of Clutch’s J.P. Gaster in a way. (Not the only thing that may bring Clutch to mind.)
The Shovell will have you shaking your hips like Austin Powers (“Don’t Hear It….Fear It!”), boppin’ your head like an epileptic chicken, and somewhere there’s got to be an exotic dancer raking in cash to “Thicker the Better”. Check ’em Before You Wreck ’em is a panacea for any and every ill-mannered day (especially the cowbell on my favourite track, “2 Tonne Fuckboot”.) It’s a dirty, sweaty, ass-kickin’ and intoxicatingly fun rock ‘n’ metal album which should span those pesky generation gaps.
My official rating accounts for realistic acceptability and objectiveness but my subjective rating is flawless. I can’t say a disparaging word about it. I don’t (yet) have a turntable solely dedicated to this record but that’s only a matter of time.