Worth the wait: proto-punks make a long-overdue studio comeback after a 30-year recording limbo.
“Silence is the quality of this apartment”: what could be Mick Farren’s last words, which open the title track of the Ladbroke Grove lads’ new album, doesn’t apply to “Naked Radio” that is so infused with his spirit, and songs, it easily qualifies for efficient deviance – and defiance, too. Raucous as hell, if nuanced, the document of the band’s return, oozing energy and taking the piss out of modern society, is almost alien to our era, and yet so relevant. There’s gloom in the tracks, but even though the gambit of “When The Movie’s All Thru” – “it’s time for the man to turn out the light” – may suggest the end of the line, it has a timeless, romantic resolution, with Andy Colquhoun’s tapping technique here and there adding texture to the many colors on display.
These kaleidoscopic fractals come into play right from the start, once a ganja hymn “Golden Bud” sets things in hypnotic motion, as Sandy Sanderson and Russell Hunter, the band’s original rhythm section, plus second drummer George Butler who’s been with them for ages, provide a primal groove. Whereas “Skeleton Army” chucks its march and chant across nightmarish landscape, lighter pieces like the Chuck Berry-channeling “Deal Deal” and “Runnin’ Outa Road” show the veterans still easily let their receding hair down when a shot of rock ‘n’ roll is required: that’s how midlife issues turn into “Midnite Crisis” to dance the night away. Even “Mick” – which hails Farren as “the man who made a stand” – stomps proudly instead of welcoming a lament, while the blues of “Stopped At The Border” and escapism of “I Walk Away” that are spurned by Jaki Windmill’s backing vocals infuse the album with a sad note for balance.
There’s also a beautiful abandon which is captured nicely on an accompanying DVD, so if the band were absent from a spotlight for decades, “Naked Radio” more than compensates for it.