The Quireboys – Amazing Disgrace (Off Yer Rocka)
They’ve long since nailed a firebrand take on party-starting rock and roll. And when The Quireboys added sweet Americana to their repertoire, with the critically acclaimed Halfpenny Dancer, it looked like Spike and co. had chanced upon the perfect sound to kickstart their second coming and launch a thousand acoustic sets.
In 2017, a blistering blues album further broadened the reach of an ever-expanding back catalogue. But the best was yet to come. Amazing Disgrace takes elements of all of the above and adds flourishes of Southern rock, folk and country to create the band’s most accomplished album in 30 years.
Recorded at the legendary Rockfield Studios, there’s a reassuring sense of purpose and ambition at the heart of a record that never ceases to surprise. From the keys and cowbell intro. ushering in bullish opener Original Black Eyed Son to the subtle folk/country vibe driving This Is It, the aural twists and turns are constant.
There’s something to be said for the throwback approach of gathering together every band member, herding them into the same room and allowing a series of hybrid song ideas to flourish and evolve. Given an environment conducive to creativity, Dave McCluskey’s contribution, as an example, proved invaluable.
The talented Scot has successfully bucked the trend of the band’s Spinal Tap-esque, revolving doors approach to the drum seat and celebrated five years with the Quireboys by playing a key role on a career-defining record. And the sound of Keith Weir’s keys have become as much a part of the band’s signature sound as Spike’s uniquely endearing rasp.
As an album title Amazing Disgrace might poke fun at the Quireboys’ reputation for doing things with a degree of degradation and dishonour but that misty-eyed image of Sharon Osbourne’s wild-child clan is utterly dated. Pride, professionalism and powerful musicianship – rather than partying hard – is at the root of a record that’s as mature as it is magnificent.
Gospel-tinged backing vocals bring alive Feels Like A Long Time and some serious fiddling maintains the folky feel on Medusa My Girl. A typically canny pay-off line on the latter – when Spike whispers ‘don’t look me in the eye’ – works an absolute treat.
Leaning on Paul Weller for the riff that elevates Slave Number One is another bold move but The Quireboys don’t lack confidence. Never have. Critical acclaim? That’s a different story but Amazing Disgrace has the potential to change perceptions and persuade the doubters to think again.
Seven Deadly Sins, with its Southern rock flavour and free birds Guy Griffin and Paul Guerin in full flight, should become a permanent fixture in the band’s live set and Eye Of The Summertime must be a shoe-in for a single release now the clocks have sprung forward.
In truth, had The Quireboys dropped ‘Disgrace’ from their latest album’s title it might have been a better fit. This is Amazing in every aspect but the most astonishing thing about the band’s sixth long player in six years is that quantity never affects quality. Realising the true potential of these songs live – in an environment lacking strings, brass and backing singers – is the only challenge facing a truly remarkable band.
Main image by John Burrows