A tidy and enjoyable effort

The great Ian Gillan was recently asked if he ever got tired of singing Smoke on the Water. For his answer, he pointed out that his friend Luciano Pavarotti admitted to being amazed that Gillan was able to change up the song so much, every time he did it, and the audience would never be upset. Pavarotti, on the other hand, always had to do his arias exactly the same way.

That’s because rock songs are ever-changing beasts, constantly evolving over time, rarely played the same way twice. With little to do since their tour was curtailed by COVID, Australian rock legends The Screaming Jets have completely reworked five of their classics for their downloadable Bitter Pill EP.

With all parts recorded in isolation from each other, every song takes on a new life. Each is immediately recognisable but inherently different in subtle ways – Sad Song now includes a guitar solo and Paul Woseen takes on the vocal duties on Friend of Mine, giving it a very different feel. Helping Hand and Shivers are, perhaps not surprisingly, the tracks that have changed the most. The first is a mellower, laid back reading with some tasty lead work behind Dave Gleeson’s smooth vocals, and Shivers gets a countrified treatment that takes it ever further away from the original but remains reverential.

Projects like this can sometimes misfire, but the Jets have pulled this off with ease, changing them up without changing too much, allowing the songs to grow and breathe on their own. Bitter Pill is a tidy and enjoyable effort.

  1. Helping Hand
  2. Shivers
  3. October Grey
  4. Sad Song
  5. Friend of Mine