Going by the cover art, you’d be forgiven for thinking ‘Skydogs’, from The Sore Losers, was the latest in a long line of cracking albums by a doom or occult rock band. The psychedelic spiral, the naked body with a skull superimposed over the face, the skull is also weeping blood (or maybe it’s laughter?)… everything screams ‘satan’ to me. I love it. It’s like an early Black Sabbath album sleeve. It makes you stop and want to investigate what’s inside. So, what is inside? Ten tracks of loud, groovy, rock n’ roll with a little twist of psych infused fuzzy riffs, that’s what. I’m struggling to come up with any rock bands from Belgium I can recall. I’m sure that they are out there, but for the time being The Sore Losers are flying the flag for the Belgians.
Musically, it’s an album steeped in British music history, from the cranium-crushing riffs of Black Sabbath, through the R ‘n’ B-infused grooves of early Rolling Stones, to the mysterious vibe of Led Zeppelin, ‘Skydogs’ could easily have ‘Made In Britain’ stamped on it. It’s way much more than merely a ‘retro’ album though. ‘Skydogs’ is fresh, and relevant enough to keep the Shoreditch hipsters happy, now that they realise that The Strokes were, in fact, shit. Opener ‘Blood Moon Shining’ is straight out of Birmingham. It’s slow and brooding, rather than the bog standard 100mph album opener, such a strong way to open the album. With Sabbath-sized riffs, and the guitars given a free reign, the tempo change at three minutes is sublime, as Jan Straetemans unleashes his best Robert Plant sexual moans, but then it’s straight into ‘Got It Bad’, which echoes The Black Keys at their fuzziest. Dazzling guitar work from both Straetemans and Cedric Maes, as the song soars and swirls above your head.
‘Cherry Cherry’ is a fast paced corker that features some rather nifty drum work from Alessio Di Turi, which brings to mind the work of perhaps the most underrated drummer ever, Charlie Watts. The same unfussy approach, the same ‘keep it simple’ attitude, with the same end result. Together with Kevin Maenen on bass, they are the glue that holds the band together. ‘Can’t You See Me Running’ is less frantic, with a real laid back vibe going on, as is ‘Emily’, which begins with my favourite way of opening a song… the drummer counting the band in. ‘Dirty Little Pretty Thing’ oozes a sneering attitude, with a guitar sound that tips it’s hat to the old chestnut ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’, but the version by Them, rather than Muddy Waters. ‘All I Am’ has a trippy vocal from Straetemans over a spacey vibe from the other Sore Losers. After a few listens, I’d say it was the strongest track on the album, a really strong mix of simple guitar riffs and laidback vocals. ‘Nightcrawler’ is more of the same, which sets up ‘Don’t Want It Here’ to have more effect nicely, as the vocals and guitars are harsher. Closing track ‘White Whale’ is a different proposition, as it twists and turns at every chance. No danger of playing it simple here.