This reviewer first saw Danko Jones opening for Hardcore Superstar in Manchester a decade ago. It was spellbinding, this swaggering braggart sweating all over the first 10 rows as he tore through impossibly catchy tales of road life.
It was like Robert Johnson on crack, the frontman an updated version of the traveling bluesmen who’ve been breaking instruments and hearts for around a century.
That night, Hardcore Superstar were reduced to Softcore Extras.
But the output of the three piece, completed by bassist John ‘JC’ Calabrese and drummer Atom Willard has since been… not patchy, but nonetheless a little disappointing in comparison to the world-beating potential they had at the beginning.
Like many straight-ahead rock bands, Danko Jones have failed to do justice to their visceral live show when they’ve walked through the studio doors. If you think this is a really good band on tape, wait til you see them live.
This is Danko Jones’ sixth album and, realistically, they’ve released two and a half records worth of killer material in that time. I’d throw in “Full Of Regret”, “Lover Call”, “First Date”, “Mango Kid”, “Cadillac”, “Rock Shit Hot”, “Woman Bound”, “Kids Don’t’ Wanna Rock”, “Code Of The Road”, “Sticky Situation”, “The Finger”, “She’s Drugs”, “Home To Hell”. “Play The Blues”, “Sound Of Love”, “Take Me Home”, “The Finger”, “Invisible”, “Forget My Name”, “I Love Living In The City”, “I Want You”, “Strut” and a few others.
These fit three categories: great rockers, novelty songs, and both.
What’s left over is garage rock ditties that meld into one, without the hooks that make the songs above so memorable.
So, how many of the tracks on Rock and Roll is Black and Blue (great colours by the way) would make the Danko Jones mega-album?
“Get Up” hops along nicely, bringing back the brag to Danko’s persona, so it’s in. “Legs” (you don’t need me to explain what that’s about, do you?) is an riff-heavy anthem in the “First Date” vein. It’s in too.
“Just A Beautiful Day” soars, with a poppy chorus and spitting vocal delivery. Definitely in.
“Always Away” is reminiscent of Black Stone Cherry’s “In My Blood” in subject matter – being always on the move – and strikes a chord with this reviewer so it passes the litmus test too. And ‘I Believed In God’ has the novelty value to avoid being quickly forgotten.
The rest? Fun, loud, honestly delivered but you’ll find yourself skipping through them after a while. It’s not dross – in fact it’s as good as the best stuff by some of Danko’s contemporaries, hence the high score despite some of the negativity of this review.
But if the Canucks can actually put out the mega-album, then we’ll really see if the decline in rock’s popularity is the real reason they’ve not risen to greater commercial heights.
2. Get Up
4. Just A Beautiful Day
5. I Don’t Care
6. You Wear Me Down
7. Type Of Girl
8. Always Away
10. Don’t Do This
11. The Masochist
12. I Believed In God
13. I Believed In God (Reprise)
14. In Your Arms