Showing great maturity, Anchor Lane resisted the urge to rush a debut album when they were first gaining a reputation as a fearsome live act. Instead, they concentrated on writing better songs and perfecting their craft by opening for acts as varied as Cheap Trick, Tremonti, and Eagles Of Death Metal. So, new year, new decade: the perfect time to release ‘Casino’ (expertly produced by Toby Jepson) and give Anchor Lane the opportunity to build on the reputation already earned in their native Scotland.
Showing great maturity again, the quartet opts to open the album with a track that quietly goes about its business of ensnaring the listener without battering them over the head like the average album opener. That is until the last thirty seconds or so when vocalist Connor Gaffney unleashes a howling vocal that signals the rest of the band to floor it. The track in question, ‘Blood & Irony’, is one of two tracks on ‘Casino’ co-written with Ricky Warwick.
The maelstrom end to ‘Blood & Irony’ quickly seeps into ‘Fame Shame’ where the band keeps the accelerator firmly southbound. It’s a wry, modern observation on the impact that social media has, as well as the obsession of reality TV. Perfect timing really, as Love Island is currently spewing out another load of Z-list “celebs” tailor-made for nightclub openings and checking into rehab.
Pulling more surprises out of the bag, Anchor Lane change it up on ‘Voodoo’. What begins with a fairly by-the-numbers crunching guitar intro quickly changes with a hint of Anthony Kiedis-esque vocals from Gaffney, as well as a light and airy guitar tone from Lawrence O’Brien. Throw in a scorching guitar solo and the end result is an infectious slice of American (by way of Scotland) rock. The title track keeps it transatlantic, especially on the choppy guitar licks. It’s the kind of track that you can envisage punters at Coachella losing their cookies over before heading off to catch Post Malone and Billie Eilish; Anchor Lane providing the edge that Audioslave used to at a multi-genre festival.
The mid-album pairing of ‘Clocks’ and ‘Stone Cold Hearted’ is a killer one-two. ‘Clocks’ brings a heavy, modern blues-rock vibe to the party, which continues on the slower, crunchier ‘Stone Cold Hearted’. The multiple changes in guitar tones on the latter are especially kind on the ears, and Gaffney gives an almighty vocal performance. This continues on the towering ‘Shell Of Me’, upon which he delivers the vocal performance of his life… so far. The stand-out track of the ten featured on ‘Casino’, this heartfelt tale of loss is Anchor Lane’s finest four minutes, and shows great development in the song-writing department.
With its catchy “Na na na na” refrains, ‘Flatline’ gives the vocal cords a seeing to, ‘Dead Run’ keeps up the audience participation with a chorus that begs to be bellowed back by a capacity crowd. Co-written again by Ricky Warwick (who also appears on backing vocals), it’s another example of how far Anchor Lane (completed by drummer Scott Hanlon and bassist Matthew Quigley) have come in such a short time. You only pop your cherry once, and tracks like ‘Dead Run’ prove that Anchor Lane were justified in holding out on their debut album until now.
Ending with ‘Honey’, ‘Casino’ is the gift that keeps giving. With the band concentrating on building up a following at home, they’ve been able to go about their business relatively hype-free. With confirmed shows down South hopefully that’s about to change, and those in attendance at the recent Giants Of Rock weekender in Minehead came away waxing lyrically about Scotland’s best kept secret.
‘Casino’ is released January 31st, pre-order information here.
Review – Dave
Image on header – Dougie Souness