HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Deep Purple - Bananas
(Virgin)

I've said this before, but Deep Purple are the best "old" band out there in terms of staying vital, creative, fresh, both Steve Morse-era albums Purpendicular and Abandon being personal faves of their respective (now ancient) years, indeed, high up my list of favourite Deep Purple albums ever. Bananas isn't as good as either of those, but it is a solid album, living up to everything that term implies - regular, even-keel, rarely wildly good or wildly bad (er, Razzle Dazzle is wildly bad), kind of groovy and rock 'n' rollsy. The songs are immediate, playful, hummable, sometimes heavily framed but gracefully, lightly produced so they don't arrive at anything as base as metal - perish the thought. It kind of bothers me for that reason actually, this idea that everything sort of rocks along, never screaming metal, rarely the direct opposite. But the wisdom runs deep. If there are boring, down-tempo parts, they are countered by bits of crazy, novel arrangement (see Pictures Of Innocence), and both Walk On and Haunted (ethereal Beth Hart back-ups, but also counterproductive strings) are moody ballads with tacit but forceful displays of bench strength. Elsewhere, the title track is an odd-timed, loose-lipped rocker, while Sun Goes Down and personal fave Silver Tongue cook and roil forthrightly, twitchy sounds itching at the rhythm while Ian gauntlets some of those cryptic yet humourous aphorisms for which he (and Roger) have become legendary. And what of Don Airey? He generally does necessary Jon Lord-type things, although he'd bristle at that portraiture. I dunno, it feels like the songs on this thing act as glue, or mortar, designed to fill the gaps between every style tried since Perfect Strangers. None are outside or particularly new, but each is a refinement of an earlier, more deliberate point on the map, the members all feeding the song at hand, Morse, Gillan, Paicey... nobody sticking out above the folksy, shed-sunned rock 'n' rollsy-ness of the thing.
Rating 8

Jaguar - Run Ragged
(Angel Air) Good guitary gracious, Jaguar has got to be the most uncompromising flag-bearers of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, unapologetically asking for nor seeking any update of their punky speed metal sound, one that is actually best described as melodic thrash, but nowhere in the same postal code as what that term means today. The band's blurry, boozy strengths are many. The coagulated riffs and gutter-proud guitar tones are part of it, but the main key is vocalist Jamie Manton, whose voice is classic, powerful, metal godly NWOBHM personified, the guy's vocal melodies just slightly ironic and self-aware, the lyrics mature and not cheesy in the least. Amazing, very old school double bass madness with the perfect and perfectly faint air of sophistication that makes the band valid today, despite such underground ground and sound swells. Strange, but you listen to No Change Given and you can hear what Dickinson is trying to find (less successfully than Jaguar), this fine line between cleverness and stupidity. No one can touch this, not Raven, Saxon, Maiden... maybe Savage (and others like Holocaust, Motorhead and Venom and Savage aren't really trying).
Rating 8

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