‘The Return of the Splendid Bastards’ is the second album from Barnsley’s self-confessed purveyors of mucky rock, Black Vines. Much like a growing number releases from local acts (Richard Kitson, The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican, Mynas, etc.), this record has been completed using the ‘crowdfunding’ initiative, a scheme in which the act asks fans to donate toward the actual recording and duplication, rather than wait for the finished item before handing over portraits of Her Majesty.
Given this rather socialist method of making the record, some of the artwork that accompanied the teaser singles (the communist red, jackboots, references to the Soviet revolution) and some of the track titles (‘In from the… Reign’, ‘Best of Enemies’), it’s very much apparent that Black Vines have their socio-political heads screwed firmly on, even without hearing a note. The majority of the songs are preceded by tongue-in-cheek samples of very archaic, very stiff-upper-lipped broadcasts from Blighty’s past, again nodding toward the political intent of the record. These samples then give way to dirty, ‘stand-too-close-and-you’ll-catch-something-nasty’ riffs evoking a gamut of bands from alternative rock’s more bare-faced regions; I’m guessing QOTSA, Alice In Chains, Black Stone Cherry and Slash all have repeated entries on the Black Vines’ collective iPod. There are many highlights on ‘…Splendid Bastards’. Track two, ‘Best of Enemies’ harks back to mid-nineties Metallica (although, here, the guitars are in tune – I don’t think Kirk Hammett ever worried his tuning pegs…), the distorted, wah-seeped chuggery equalling anything on ‘Load’.
Track 6, ‘Another Second Chance’ opens with a mandolin and harmonised guitar figure that would slot unresisted into Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’ extravaganza and then, somehow, leads seamlessly into a gloriously simple but effective riff, not unlike Alice in Chains’ ‘Again’. Such a transition is not an easy feat…
Track 8, ‘Junk Mail’ offers just enough of a slice of NWOBHM to keep the anti Maiden factions happy, the guitarist effortlessly and tastefully referencing the infamously difficult neo-classical/baroque style of the 80s.
The album closes with ‘In from the… Reign’, the latter half of it’s eight minutes being an unashamed, relentless, good ol’ fashioned guitar ‘wig out’. Although much, much heavier, there are phrases that suggest the (undoubtedly shit-hot) guitarist was weaned on Pink Floyd’s infallible and much celebrated David Gilmour. Splendid. There’s little to criticise on ‘…Splendid Bastards’; the rhythm section sounds like they were born together (the drums on ‘Ghosts’ gave me a lickle semi-on), the vocals never waver or dwindle in their sincerity and the guitars are much more rounded and musically well-fed than on the majority of recordings of this ilk. Gloriously, unabashedly filthy, and a lot more. Emanuel Shadrack
You can now stream or order The Return of the Splendid Bastards from blackvines.bandcamp.com/album/the-return-of-the-splendid-bastards
Read the review of album single, Black Boots On Red Dirt here.
Keep up to date with future gigs and music releases here > facebook.com/blackvinesclub