By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)
So, what happens when you’ve been Motörhead’s guitarist for the last 30 or so years, and suddenly, you’re not anymore. Do you a) pick up a pair of gardening shears and retire, or do you b) round up your sons, Neil Starr, and start a brand new rock and roll band?
Thankfully for us, Phil Campbell decided on option ‘b’, and Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons were born into this world, with their debut album, The Age of Absurdity, now available for your listening pleasure. And blimey, what a pleasurable listen this album is.
This album was always going to be a tricky one for Phil Campbell and his bastard sons, plus his not-actually-his-son Neil Starr. It had to be the perfect balance of Motörhead-style aggression, but not sound like an aggrandised Motörhead tribute album. But when it was pulled out of the oven, it was clear this little soufflé had been baked to perfection. This album shouldn’t be written off as a “For fans of Motörhead” record because it’s a record for fans of good, solid rock & roll. This album is for everyone!
Bursting straight out of the gate comes the heavy-rocking Ringleader, featuring some corkers of lyrics, expertly delivered by Neil Starr, with a particular highlight being “Can’t break your heart of stone, I hope you die alone, you’re gonna get what you deserve”. Burns like fire, but it’s a highly relatable lyric. The best thing about this being a Phil Campbell featuring album is that there are those unmistakable crying Campbell solos. Following straight after is Freak Show and Skin & Bones, packing the first few ‘taster’ tracks of this album full of flavour. The first few tracks are the most important of any album, and these three get you absolutely hooked with strong riffs, hearty lyrics, and big solos. What more do you want from a rock & roll album?
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, however, with his sons Todd, Tyla and Dane putting in a flawless performance from start to finish. When you’re a world-famous musician, having three sons to start a band with is one hell of an insurance policy. Not a Campbell, but it’s doubtful that you could have gotten a better vocalist than Neil Starr for this record. Huge power in his delivery & a wide range, he really makes this record his own vocally. What started out as a bit of a cover band and a cabaret act for when Motörhead were off the road or out the studio, this has become a fantastic new band with old hands, the ideal mix of experience & enthusiasm.
There are a few winks to the lead guitarist’s past ventures though, with the bassline in Gypsy Kiss feeling very Kilmister-esque, and the drumbeat in Dropping the Needle feeling like a classic ‘Head beat. But given the influence that Motörhead had on the rock & roll landscape, it’s just par for the course that any modern album will have these little winks to the past. However, this album is detached from the iconic Motörhead sound but still has that bite & venom in its delivery.
This album is chock full of riffs, with Welcome to Hell and Get On Your Knees being proper riff-tastic rock and roll songs. It’s just a solid classic rock album, something that’s actually quite refreshing when you consider the rich variety that modern rock offers, it’s nice to get back to something simple, built on heavy riffs, screaming solos and loud noise. Modern rock is in rude health, but it’s always good to look back into the past every now and then. Like a bit of a slow jam? Dark Days is for you, with an absolutely stonking bit of harmonica-based shenanigans throughout the song, and that screaming solo at the end is absolutely perfect.
Ending with the ballad-esque Into the Dark, The Age of Absurdity is a fantastic debut album from Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons. It carries the torch that Motörhead lit, with Phil Campbell burning as bright as always.