With Biffy Clyro catching some flak with a riskier “poppier” sound on new album ‘A Celebration of Endings’, and Twin Atlantic going down a similar path with the recent, and admittedly very good, ‘Power’ album; the time is perfect for a guitar-band from North of The Wall to steal some of their thunder. And you don’t get much further north than Aberdeen. Therefore, please welcome from the unforgiving North-East of Scotland; Cold Years, and their long-awaited debut album ‘Paradise’.
Vocalist/guitarist Ross Gordon has an authentic, rasping vocal delivery which will always bring inevitable comparisons to The Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon. No point in fighting it, there is a definite suggestion of a New Jersey influence here. Which is no bad thing considering how revered The Gaslight Anthem were, and ‘Paradise’ certainly washes away some of the disappointment left-over from their parting gift of ‘Get Hurt’ in 2014.
So swap New Brunswick, New Jersey for Aberdeen, and let opening track ‘31’ wash over you. The gentle intro soon gives way to a soaring banger which is controlled by a stellar drum sound by the man at the back; Fraser Allan. An everyday tale of “wanting to get off this ride”, with lyrics like “There’s blood on the streets tonight, I want to drink until I die”, that will strike a chord with most seeking to escape the drudgery of their surroundings. ‘Life With A View’ quickly follows on with some of the largest hooks heard in quite some time. One of those joyous moments to help the listener block out the outside noise of day-to-day life, and make even the most cynical of cynics crack a smile. Simply superb, as is the towering ‘The Waits’ which would no doubt have formed a centrepiece of any live show.
The unfortunate aspect of this well-written album is that it’s tailor-made for a live setting, which given the current predicament, is pretty fucking sickening. The likes of ‘Northern Blues’ and ‘Burn The House Down’ providing perfect opportunities for packed rooms, and festival throngs, to scream the words back at the band as the audience bounces as one. And, how come ‘Electricity’ is not on wall-to-wall rotation on daytime, national BBC Radio? If ever a track ticked all the boxes then it is ‘Electricity’. Ditto ‘Too Far Gone’ which proves that a band can add riffs and guitar solos to a track without needing to water it down for a mainstream audience.
Fans of The Gaslight Anthem will find much to drool over when the needle drops on ‘Paradise’, and the room fills with some of the best authentic, blue-collar, guitar-driven rock heard since Brian Fallon and Co released ‘American Slang’ ten years ago. Yes, ‘Paradise’ is that good, and although at 13 tracks in length it’s lengthy, the quality never really lets up, as proven on the polar-opposite closing pair of ’62 (My Generation’s Falling Apart)’ and ‘Hunter’; the former a killer uptempo beast of a track, the latter a stark, heartfelt moment from Ross Gordon stripped to its bare bones.
This is the moment where hacks usually insert a closing line like “stardom awaits”, or “arenas beckon”, but since the music business is so fickle and fad-driven, as well as the fact that The 1975 are “stars” and an “arena” band, then who can truly say how far that Cold Years can go? One thing for certain though; if they continue to produce material as vital and honest as ‘Paradise’, then they should have a long successful career with a solid fanbase behind them all the way. A band to keep an eye on for sure.
Available now via Inside Job/Entertainment One (eOne)
Review – Dave
Band photo on header – Stuart Taylor