English rock guitarist Jeff Beck releases Loud Hailer, his first new album in six years.
By Jane Howkins
Loud Hailer is the latest album from guitarist Jeff Beck (not to be confused with multi-instrumentalist Beck), featuring a mixture of old and new sounds, with a clear political message running throughout the album.
Musical duo Bones also help to flesh the album out, with the twosome consisting of singer Rosie Bones and guitarist Carmen Vanderberg, who have helped to create what seems to be a more thematically focused album than what Beck usually produces. Part of that may be due to the lyrical content though, as the majority of the songs here contain political messages that are meant to sound poignant, but sadly often fall short. There’s nothing wrong with a political album (most bands/artists will have at least one) but it has to be done right, and at times, the tracks on Loud Hailer make Beck sound more like somebody reading a tabloid newspaper and taking it as fact, instead of someone genuinely connected with the message here. One song in particular that does this is Think Of The Children, which is rather tuneful and also has a good message behind it. However, it occasionally sounds cheesy and almost a little doddery, which is the main issue with the political ambitions here – the intentions are right but the delivery is not always correct.
Musically, the record fares a lot better, with groovy, fat riffs featuring throughout. Vanderberg’s guitar playing combines well with that of Beck’s, and the heavy use of distortion pedals works well against Bones’ soft vocal stylings, especially on Thugs Club. The two almost seem to channel the ghost of Mr. Jimi Hendrix himself at times, which is definitely a good thing, and something that perhaps should have been focused upon more instead of the lyrical content.
As well as the louder, more blues based songs (such as the very fun The Ballad Of The Jersey Wives), there are also quieter songs here, such as the folky Shrine. This shows a different side to the album, and is simply beautiful, being especially touching in its place at the end of the album.
Beck is very much at the top of his game in terms of musicality and guitar playing, and Loud Hailer is still an interesting album to listen to, if you can get past some of the cheese of the lyrics and the doddering politics behind it all. That’s not to say that political themes are to be shot down on future Jeff Beck albums though, and hopefully with a little more thought and polish, his next musical adventure may yield more success – in terms of both music and the themes that go alongside it.