LONERIDER – Attitude

LoneRider is a supergroup of sorts, as it brings together a few well known faces from the world of melodic rock. Another musical union between FM vocalist Steve Overland and Heartland guitarist Steve Morris, the band already has a great pedigree since both musicians released some fine music under the Shadowman name as well as with their main recording acts. For fans of both parties, expectations for a new project were already high, but LoneRider’s debut ‘Attitude’ exceeds everything Shadowman had released to date…and at least half of FM’s own work.

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NAT FREEDBERG – Better Late Than Never

A cult hero from Boston, Nat Freedberg has recorded with The Titanics, The Clamdiggers, The Flies…and likely lots of other acts labelled with the definitive article. Always a champion of a natural sound, his best works have a very old spirit and the best bits of 2019’s ‘Better Late Than Never’ could stand alongside Strange Majik in terms of exuding an all-round retro cool…at least on musical terms.

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ROXY BLUE – Roxy Blue

With overtones of Warrant, Trixter and other vaguely sleazy bands, Roxy Blue’s 1992 debut album ‘Want Some’ became a firm favourite among fans of the glammier end of the melodic rock scale. With a really catchy set of songs and solid musicianship, it was the kind of album that deserved better than just cult status. Over the passing decades, it’s never seemed to get the same rose tinted love as, say, Warrant’s ‘Dog Eat Dog’, It’s Alive’s ‘Earthquake Visions’ or Kingofthehill, but if approached in the right mood, it’s every bit as good as other similar stuff from the period. Disappearing not long after, Roxy Blue seemed destined to join Outlaw Blood, Warp Drive and countless others in the “one album band” stakes. Despite frontman Todd Poole continuing to write songs, as the next few years came and went, they seemed about as likely to record a second album as Ted Nugent becoming a progressive minded vegan.

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FANGZ – For Nothing EP

Although sometimes closer to trashy hard rock than straight punk or pop punk, this debut EP from Sydney’s self-proclaimed “party punks” is the kind of recording that grabs the attention straight away, regardless of genre preference. With a primary goal (in the band’s own words) of “getting people to drink beer and do backflips in mosh pits”, there’s always got an interest in stoking up good times, so you might expect something tossed off and frivolous…but the reality is far more complex. Digging deeper into the songs themselves, ‘For Nothing’ is the kind of debut that shows off a band that understands the benefits of a strong arrangement. Nothing here feels hacked out or too simple and yet the songs still value the kind of directness that’s capable of pulling in the listener from the very first spin.

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A ROAD TO DAMASCUS – No Man Is An Island EP

Billing themselves as “pop core”, Danish band A Road To Damascus set out – in their own words – to create music that was “catchier than your average rock song” and yet “heavier than your average pop song”. Since there’s a lot of catchy rock based stuff out there (try resisting the huge choruses on Black Star Riders’ ‘Finest Hour’ or those gang vocals on The Fratellis’ ‘Chelsea Dagger’), they’d automatically given themselves a tall order, but one listen to their music is all that’s needed to understand what they mean.

Their 2019 EP ‘No Man Is An Island’ takes in all manner of twenty first century pop and lighter rock influences to create something very friendly. At its very best, it sounds like hugely sophisticated pop music aimed squarely at an adult market, but by keeping one foot in a vaguely rock-ish camp, they’ve created four songs that – although unashamedly pop – have a pleasing weight to them; a general oomph that would normally be absent from radio pop. The presence of vocal filters throughout is a constant reminder of their love of actual pop fare, but if you can make it past those, the EP has a lot to give.

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