Jeff Beck | Loud Hailer | 8/10
Jeff Beck has become increasingly synonymous with the highly technical guitar virtuosity that elicits prosaic pontification on the letters pages of ‘Record Collector’. So it’s easy to forget that, with The Yardbirds and The Jeff Beck Group, one of the greatest musicians of the past 50 years began his career playing what were essentially pop songs.
In that regard, the follow-up to the Grammy-winning ‘Emotion and Commotion’ is a return to his roots. Certainly there’s no mistaking his signature tone, that nimble finger work on the fretboard, and the programmed beats favoured since 1999’s ‘Who Else’. But, on his first album in six years, Beck’s cut back on the effects pedals and, even more significantly, returned to traditional song structures – complete with verses, choruses, and even vocals.
The result of collaborating with young London band Bones, only two tracks – the drilling ‘Pull It’ and underwater ambience of ‘Edna’ – are instrumentals. The remainder range from classic blues ballads to industrial dance groovers, all united by Rosie Bones’ raspy voice belting out the sort of rhetoric you might hear over a loud hailer at a political rally.
So the gritty blues of ‘Thugs Club’ names and shames the politicians and money men intent on oppressing the masses. The heartbreaking lament for future generations (and album highlight) ‘Scared For The Children’ drives home its message with the refrain “this is the end of the age of the innocence”.
The searing ‘Right Now’ addresses the increasing demand for immediate gratification, while the accompanying apathy towards anything beyond entertainment is the focus of the grimy ‘The Revolution Will Be Televised’. The ethereal country-flavoured ballad ‘Shrine’ questions the tenets of organised religion (“got faith in the good things that good humans can do”), and the visceral rocker ‘The Ballad Of The Jersey Wives’ documents the fight for answers by four women who lost their husbands on 9/11.
But lyrically ‘Loud Hailer’ is more than one dimensional. the tender ‘Shame’ doesn’t just musically channel 1950s doo-wop, while the sleazy ‘O.I.L. (Can’t Get Enough Of That Sticky)’ is in every way a Prince funk explosion. And in the process, Beck shows that not only is he still relevant five decades into his career – he’s still having fun doing it.