For many, the ‘80s and early ‘90s were about big hair, big songs, and big bloody hooks. And at the forefront of the movement – a legion of female acts selling albums by the bucketloads. Pat Benatar, Heart, Vixen, Lita Ford, Alannah Myles, then you had Robin Beck with her monster hit single ‘First Time’. Following on were a group of newer artists like Patty Smyth, Fiona, and Chrissie Steele (‘Magnet To Steele’ is still a regular on the decks here), where if you wanted to purchase albums from these acts, it was either mail-order or a trip to Tower Records (remember the American long box packaging?!). But fear not, we are now in the golden age of technology and extortniate import charges are a thing of the past, huzzah! Sadly a late-night trip to Tower Records is also a thing of the past, as is checking out new music on MTV, which is a crying shame as on her self-titled debut solo album Welsh songstress Chez Kane is turning back the clock to a period where female rock acts were on heavy rotation on MTV, and she is doing it in some style.
With Danny Rexon of Crazy Lixx having written, arranged and produced the album, you should have an inkling of what to expect; hook-laden, radio-friendly, anthemic music which, similar to ‘Retransmission’ (the incredible latest album from W.E.T.), has the uncanny knack of being instantly familiar despite being a brand new album.
From the first few keyboard notes of the opening track ‘Better Than Love’, through to the last strains of closing track ‘Dead End Street’, this is the very definition of “all-killer-no-filler”. And that is such a rare commodity these days, so many acts are going for quantity these days that they forget about quality control; but what do we say to the God of filler material? – not today. The aforementioned ‘Better Than Love’ would be a fantastic set opener; the light keyboard intro (think ‘Chelsea Girl’ by Simple Minds) settles into a pulsing, throbbing feel on a gradual, slow-burning track, complete with of-the-period sax, gotta have sax. Kane’s vocals will be a revelation to anyone who hasn’t caught her performing with her sisters in Kane’d, and to those who have, they confirm the long-held belief that it was only a matter of time until Chez was “discovered”. ‘All Of It’ has some of the biggest earworm moments since ‘Slippery When Wet’ or ‘Hysteria’, those layered vocal harmonies are to-die-for, and with Chez’s uber-cool vocals, and Rexon’s stellar production, it is a towering moment.
‘Rocket On The Radio’ is the money-shot on the album. A summer anthem so goddam infectious that any attempt at resistance is futile. A lovely little tip of the hat to Def Leppard from the guitars during the intro, and a simple chorus that does what choruses are supposed to: hang around the listener’s psyche for ages afterward. One of those perfect songs that come around once in a while. If ‘Rocket On The Radio’ was inspired musically by Leppard, then ‘Get It On’ is fuelled by ‘Eliminator’ era ZZ Top. Check out the neat keyboard melodies running through it: nice! The chorus is larger than life and with zero sarcasm intended, this is perfect for a Blackpool hen-night singalong in between acts at Funny Girls. ‘Too Late For Love’ keeps up the Leppard-influence and like everything before, it is so catchy that two vaccinations are not enough to combat the risk of infection.
The back nine of the album begins with ‘Defender Of The Heart’ which brings a John Farnham or Chicago-esque vibe to the party, somewhere there is a TV show or movie missing one final piece to it’s soundtrack, and this is that piece. Great vocals from Chez on a super-light slice of ‘80s AOR. ‘Ball N’ Chain’ could be ‘Tommy and Gina: The Sequel’ and is steeped in so many Bon Jovi-isms that it reminds the listener of how influential Bon Jovi were/are. ‘Midnight Rendezvous’ is faster paced and harder-edged, similar to Heart’s ‘If Looks Could Kill’ in pacing. A track built in the studio, but meant for the live setting, and a great way of offsetting some of the lighter moments on the album. Lighter moments such as ‘Die In The Name Of Love’ which has a Roxette-feel to it in places; the kind of track that metalheads would hate on in public, while secretly loving. Ending on ‘Dead End Street’ this is one of the strongest debut albums in some time.
Chez Kane has taken the opportunity afforded to her by Frontiers Music and fully realised that you only release your debut solo album once so why not pull out all the stops? Top marks to all involved, and surely by now Frontiers head honcho Serafino Perugino has got the producers of Cobra Kai and Stranger Things on speed dial, badgering them to get Chez on the soundtracks to both.
Lechyd da Chez and Danny, Lechyd da.
Available March 12th, more information here.
Review – Dave