Ian Hunter’s latest offering treads typical rock-pop and ballad tracks, but it’s a satisfying throwback to the oft-forgotten, easy-listening, cruising albums of decades ago.
If I ever hear Mott the Hoople’s ‘All the Young Dudes’ once more, heads will roll. I don’t care how well it charted – it is a dreadful song. I was therefore slightly dubious when offered the chance to review the Hoople lead singer’s latest album.
Pessimists may never be disappointed, but they’re certainly disproved, as I was on this occasion by Ian Hunter & The Rant Band’s fulfilling album, When I’m President which dives into familiar rock territory, but does it with such style that it brings back a nostalgia not heard among many albums today.
Despite the title, When I’m President is far less politically charged than you may think. Aside from the title track, most tracks on this album deal with love, loss, and an overarching sense of a glam rock icon slowly succumbing to a dignified, softer ageing process, but without slaughtering the rock n’ roll beast that may still stir inside.
‘Fatally Flawed’ features some of the most enjoyably gruelling, gravelling, distorted singing and guitar work for a long while, cleverly lulling you into a false sense of security in the verses before jumping into clashing, clanging, thrashing guitar refrains.
The title track ‘When I’m President’ is a damning, angst-laden protest against the politics of today and the sheer hypocrisy of 21st century politics, coarsely shouted over bright and cheery effects ridden guitar loops. There’s even time for a welcome stab at the economic crisis:
“Still whining about your bonus / Man up, you’re ridiculous / Hell you can’t take it with you / So, give a little extra”
While some will dispel this song as mere lefty ramblings, it is far more than that. Deep, meaningful, considered, composed – the title track is more than just a protest song, it’s a protest anthem.
It’s not all fantastic though, and that is why it falls slightly shy of the top marks. Despite being lauded as the best song by other critics, ‘Black Tears’ did not prove memorable. ‘Wild Bunch’, which details the tales of becoming involved in the behaviour of the wrong crowd, is a rather ponderous affair, never really surprising or impressing. And ‘Ta Shunka Witco’ is just strange. I’ve never heard the story of famous Native American warrior Crazy Horse be put to music, and I sort of wish I had not.
Finishing off the album is the melancholic, reflective, yet somewhat hopeful ‘Life’. A rather generic, typical melody disperses savage lyrics and angered reflections, before repeating the important refrain which sums up more than just the album: “Laugh because it’s only life.”
What Hunter has done here is create an album that can easily be aligned to the classic rock category, without sounding outdated or desperate. What this album reminds me of is a musical concoction somewhere between Rod Stewart, Tom Petty and Status Quo. While that may sound like a strange position to be in, the deep tones of Hunter’s voice coupled with often dreamy, lofty, yet seemingly effortless riffs pleasurably cast you back to those forgotten classic rock realms.
- Fatally Flawed
- When I’m President
More filler than thriller:
- Black Tears
- Wild Bunch
- Ta Shunka Witco
Words: Ashley Scrace