In a move that takes Dr. Robert and his Blow Monkeys even further from their soul-inflected roots, 'If Not Now, When?' finds the Eighties stalwarts going in an all-out rock direction. The good doctor claims to have been trying to channel the spirit of Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry, and that's undoubtedly there like it is in any blues-influenced music, but here that influence manifests itself more in a decent pastiche of the Stones with all their Seventies swagger in tow.
At first, given how different the sound of this album is compared to the band's big hits of yesteryear, it's difficult to actually identify a distinctive Blow Monkeys sound here. Gradually, though, as you tune into the hornwork on lead single 'OK! Have It Your Way', that soulful streak is there as ever - it's just hiding behind the stomp and riffery that makes that single such a strong opening salvo.
And so it continues across the rest of what is a punchy, ballsy album. Dr. Robert emphatically states that this is his band's best work, and the case is pretty convincing. It may lack the desperate, wrenching quality that some of their earliest work possessed, but this is ultimately a fun pop album that still manages to concern itself with big themes - existentialism, fame, market forces, death, philosophy to name but a few of Robert's musings here.
After an album of white hot glam-inflected rock tracks, the knee-length platform boots are returned to the retro clothing shop for 'The Lions Of Charing Cross'. This is Dr. Robert's Kinks moment, here finding him adopting the role of a tearful-eyed surveyor of the latest architectural devastation of the capital's heritage. If you're thinking that you don't remember seeing lions at Charing Cross and that Bob has got the station mixed up with nearby Nelson's Column, consider that what he's referring to is the discovery of skeletons of such big beasts in excavations of London; you then understand that he's referring to something much more elemental in London's lost past than mere real estate redevelopment.
Since reforming in 2008, The Blow Monkeys have put out no less than four distinctive albums, each unique and each teasing out a different dimension of their signature sound. 'If Not Now, When?' does that once again in a broadly rock framework. Few survivors from the day-glo decade have dared to put out such a bold, fresh statement as this record; it certainly makes for a brave move compared to re-writing your greatest hits all over again.
OK! Have It Your Way / The Sound of Your Laughter / All That Glitters / Think Again / The Guessing Game / Sun Is In The Sky / Stay Now / Shadow Boxing / If Not Now, When? / Lions of Charing Cross
'If Not Now, When?' is released on April 6th 2015 on CD and via Digital Download.
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