42 DECIBEL: OVERLOADED

(STEAMHAMMER/SPV; 2017)

Discovering new music and artists that you truly enjoy listening to is one of the percs of this business. It makes you wanna hear more, delve into the back catalog; above all, you find yourself anticipating where the artist will take you with the NEXT release. However, in a world where many a band are increasingly more of the one-and-done variety, perhaps toiling away in virtual obscurity, playing random small clubs and house shows in their own backyards, it is becoming harder and harder for artists to deliver that next single, EP or album. 42 Decibels is one of those bands I came to late, picking up on their sophomore release, ROLLING IN TOWN a couple of years back. To say that I was heartened to discover record number three in my in-box would be a gross understatement. The question is, though, does it live up to my preordained hype? I say yes but, I’ll leave you to judge for yourself.

42 DECIBEL (Nicko Cambiasso, Billy Bob Riley, Junior Figueroa, Matt Fraga) (publicity photo)

Believe it or not, OVERLOADED does have an overarching theme, though not a particularly high-minded one. The title is derived from the band purposely pushing their equipment to its absolute limits, intentionally burying the VU meter in the red causing varying degrees of distortion. They get right to their task with “Whiskey Joint,” a Ramones/Misfits punky kinda vibe. With the ghost of Bon Scott howling over an infectious groove and Glen Buxton’s poltergeist offering up a “spirited” solo, it’s possible that these guys just might have a future in the rock ‘n’ roll game. “Dangerous Mess” is a swampy AC/DC sort of thing that helps add to the Bon Scott comparison. Just to make sure everyone is well aware of 42 Decibel’s influences are, there’s a sloppy Angus-like solo to liven up the final 45 seconds. On “Brawler,” the insistence of Nicko Cambiasso’s drums pounding out a rather primal beat, I am put in mind of a Gary Glitter tune; while it may not be as anthemic as a Glitter song, it is a lot of fun. “Roadkiller” is another on of those chuga-chuga AC/DC foot stomper with a monster riff. However, vocalist Junior Figueroa has traded in his good-time Bon Scott sound for the more menacing style of the incomparable Alex Harvey. The cut features yet another solidly rockin’ solo from redoubtable Billy Bob Riley. There’s a slightly heavier vibe (if that is even possible!) on “Hot Shot.” Think Steppenwolf or, maybe Deep Purple, but without the keyboards. Matt Fraga offers a massive, fuzz-infused bass sound that could very easily substitute for the heavy organ sound of either Jon Lord or Goldy McJohn, while Billy Bob’s lead work and slide solo are wicked cool.

The punk groove, seemingly left for dead after “Whiskey Joint,” is back on “Half Face Dead,” hanging out behind some seriously heavy riffage. I’m not exactly sure what “Half Face Dead” means, but it sounds kinda evil, in a villainous Harvey Dent kinda way. “Lost Case” has a brighter, springier (dare I say, “spritely?”) bounce with some more nice slide work and the return of Junior’s Harvey-esque (as in Alex, not Dent) growl. In a pared down version of THE THREE FACES OF EVE, Riley’s slide and rhythm guitars fight it out like a couple of drunk boxers for a really cool sounding “duet.” “Cause Damage” is a stompin’ Blues thing, a la Foghat’s take on Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” or, I guess, just about any early Foghat song. The dirty slide (man, I do love that slide guitar sound!) and pumping bass line propel the song along its slowly grinding path and helps make the track one of my favorite offerings from OVERLOADED. Another slow Blues, “Double Itch Blues,” reintroduces the AC/DC similarities – and comparisons – with loose guitar runs and Figueroa’s nearly unconscious delivery. A gutteral bass and some rather heavy-handed, if a bit lugubrious, drumming add to the slinky, slippery feel of the tune. With 42 Decibel, I’ve read comparisons elsewhere to Nazareth and, on “Cannon Fodder,” I finally hear it; the guitar work could actually be mistaken as a guest appearance by that legendary band’s highly under-rated Manny Charlton. The group picks up the tempo after a couple of slow Blues pieces, with things speeding up even more, leading to a beautifully messy terminus. I’ve gotta give a huge “Thank you” to the band’s record label (yes, those beasts do still exist), Steamhammer, for sticking with 42 Decibel throughout their – I guess you could call it their “gestation period.” So many artists find their creativity stifled by corporate heads demanding a string of hit singles right from the get-go but, Steamhammer (and their parent company, SPV) has allowed this group (and several others) to grow and evolve, much like the two bands that 42 Decibel are most often compared to. AC/DC and Nazareth – arguably – didn’t find their voices until their third albums (DIRTY DEEDS DONE DIRT CHEAP and RAZAMANAZ, respectively); I think with OVERLOADED, 42 Decibel’s third record, they have, indeed, found their voice and their groove. I cannot wait to hear number four!


42 DECIBEL: ROLLING IN TOWN

(STEAMHAMMER/SPV RECORDINGS; 2015)

42-decibel_rolling-in-town

As with their 2013 debut, HARD ROCK ‘N’ ROLL, the sophomore release from the Argentinian rock consortium known as 42 Decibel mines the same brash wasteland as AC/DC (the group’s moniker is derived from a line from “Let There Be Rock”) and their Aussie brethren, Rose Tattoo. The band’s biography notes that their music “demands a resilient vegetative nervous system on the part of the listener.” That’s just a really expensive way of saying, “42 Decibel doesn’t want you to strain your brain listening to their songs, so… just disengage the gray matter and rock out.” From the outset of the record’s first track, “Can’t Keep Control,” it’s fairly obvious that this group – much like Cyndi Lauper – just want to have fun. The number is your standard Blues-based Rock and Roll, with the quartet displaying more versatility than the more famous guys name-checked above; Junior Figueroa is the living vocal embodiment of the legendary Bon Scott, if a slightly less inebriated version, while the guitar work of Figueroa and Billy Bob Riley hits all of the right chords (so to speak). “Short Fused” is a slow, grinding Blues featuring rudimentary drums from Nicko Cambiasso and classic hard rock gang vocals. The Dust-like groove features a slide solo from Billy Bob reminiscent of that band’s Richie Wise. A Status Quo boogie monster, “Rude and Fast,” shows 42 Decibel managing to fit more straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll into this single sub-three minute tune than most bands can muster in an entire album. “Drop of Booze” is much as the title would lead you to expect; with Junior’s voice resembling Bon Scott so closely, the number could actually be AC/DC’s prequel to “Have a Drink On Me,” from their first post-Bon set, BACK IN BLACK.

42 Decibel (Billy Bob Riley, Junior Figueroa, Nick Cambiasso, Matt Fraga) (uncredited photo)

42 Decibel (Billy Bob Riley, Junior Figueroa, Nicko Cambiasso, Matt Fraga) (uncredited photo)

At the intersection where “Highway To Hell” and Montrose’s “Bad Motor Scooter” converge, “Burning Down the Road” is highlighted by some nice slide from Riley and a dirty bass line from new guy, Matt Fraga. The track is currently one of my favorites from what is a very strong album. “Eye of the Hawk” is an unlikely, snarling Alice Cooper-esque cowboy stomp, with gang vocals and a killer (no pun intended) circular guitar pattern over a persistently heavyweight drumbeat. A smokin’ Blues rocker, “Down the Hatch” features a drunken Flogging Molly kinda punk rock guitar part that perfectly fits the subject matter. “Midnight Teaser (Evil Woman)” is a Blues shuffle with a bouncy Fraga bass part and a near-spoken word vocal from Figueroa. Fraga and his partner-in-rhythm, drummer Cambiasso, finally get a chance to really shine, giving the tune a great swing. The last 45 seconds or so, the song slides into a nifty Blues vamp. Likewise, the next song, “Cold Steel Rider,” is based around another well-known Blues groove, with Junior’s lead and most of his soloing sounding like a nylon-stringed acoustic. The rather minimalist arrangement gives the number a power that somehow seems lacking in most of the rest of the record. “Smooth Talker” closes the album; it’s a slow, grinding piece of mischief, a whiskey soaked paean to… well, whiskey soaked last call pick-ups. ROLLING IN TOWN doesn’t exist to win any plaudits from the self-important pundits who toil for such high-minded media outlets as ROLLING STONE or SPIN; it exists as a slab of fun, rockin’ Blues for the common folk… the kind of people that Bruce Springsteen wouldn’t poke with a ten foot pole. And, ya know, that’s good enough for me.