I still remember the first time I caught the Quireboys live, in Swansea’s Sin City, it was a dark, cold and (Most likely) damp December evening in 2008. I had been trying to catch the band live for a few years and low and behold, they arrive in my hometown poised and ready to rock.
They were deep in the touring cycle for 2008’s Homewreckers and Heartbreakers. I had been a fan of the band for a few years before this album’s release but hearing the Quireboys release an album of stripped back, bluesy rock with mandolins and acoustic guitars was surely something to tread carefully around. Upon first listen back in 2008 I was enamored. Here we sit, 10 years later and the band is celebrating 10 years of homewrecking and heartbreaking, and rightly so.
The band has decided to celebrate with a re-released version of the album with 5 additional live tracks. I was unable to attend the 10th Anniversary concert in September so I’ll make up for that by enjoying the re-released album.
The opening bluesy licks of “I Love This Dirty Town” still get me excited. The drums kick in and it’s party time. This is vintage Quireboys are their juke joint swinging best. Spike’s voice is timeless, is it even possible for the man to sound bad? The song was written about his beloved Newcastle, but I think most of us have our own dirty town that we love.
Track two leads to an immediate change of vibe, the mandolin has been broken out and it’s time for a heartfelt singalong titled “Mona Lisa Smiled”, this song finds its way into the bands live setlists tour after tour and deservingly so, the hook still stands strong after 10 years. Sure, it might be a departure for a band known for keeping the swagger of the blues alive, but they pull it off.
“Louder” was always a favourite of mine, blistering slide guitar licks, driving drums and a chorus asking if you want it louder. That’s a recipe for rock and roll success.
Four tracks in and we take another sit down for a slower track, “Hello”. While the tempo might drop, the band still keep the licks coming. The tempo doesn’t stay down too long though, the next track “Blackwater” takes us firmly back into that swampy blues stomp that we can’t get enough of. I challenge anyone to listen to this track without nodding their head.
Next up, we have a trio of downtempo songs, kicking off with “Fear Within the Lie”. The swirly, mellotron-esque keys instantly remind me of Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” coupled with that Quireboys backbeat swagger. Spike’s voice sounding particularly vulnerable and fragile here, gripping the listen and making you hang on his every word. He means everything he’s singing and you can feel it. “One For The Road” is a piano and acoustic led ode to the good times, which retains the stripped back vibe of this section of the album it creates a sense of fun, the sentiment being the older we get, things get harder but there’s always time to have one for the road. The trio of downtempo tracks is rounded off by the tenderly sung “Late Nite Saturday Call”, there are plenty of meanings someone could apply to a song like this. Spike and the boys have kept the subject matter deeply personal, yet open to interpretation. One of the reasons why I believe that after four decades, their songs are still powerful and poignant.
“Hall of Shame” shifts the gears back up and we’re off to a slide guitar fuelled, bluesy smasher. This is a song that I’ve always wished the band would drop into a live show, and perhaps they have, but all the times I’ve seen them live this song has not made the cut. For me, this was always one of the highlights of the album. It has all the elements that I expect from a band like The Quireboys, all the things that evoke the energy I felt when I first heard the band in 2005.
I am a sucker for a pretty guitar intro and “Take a Look At Yourself” delivers just that. There’s a definite 60s vibe to this with a touch of American West Coast smoothness. A heartfelt, mid-tempo tribute to getting it wrong and living as two people, perhaps something many of us have been guilty of over the years.
It would be rude to not go out with a bang, “Josephine” picks the energy back up for the final bow. The band is firing on all cylinders now, as Spike said rightfully in 2001 “This IS Rock and Roll”. High octane, head nodding, foot stomping rock and roll at that. When I first got turned onto bands that originated in the 80s, one of the early songs that turned me onto this was “Cathouse” by Faster Pussycat. When I hear “Josephine”, it reminds of me of that exact feeling of hearing that fast-paced, 12 bar blues attack. Half my life later, hearing that kind of music still gets me ready to rock. Clocking in at less than 3 minutes, the band deliver the goods and cut to the chase. What a way to end an album.
To commemorate the 10th anniversary, we are also treated to 5 live tracks spanning the bands career, “Too Much of a Good Thing”, “Homewreckers and Heartbreakers” (Which is interestingly not on this album, it was on 2013s “Beautiful Curse”), “Mona Lisa Smiled”, “Mother Mary” and “I Love This Dirty Town”. These tracks showcase how electric the band sound live. I particularly loved the live take on Mona Lisa, with some added punch to the guitars. If you have not seen this band live, I urge you to do so. These live tracks will give you a taste, but you really need to get to a show and let your ears give you the fix that you need.
10 years of Homewreckers and Heartbreakers done and dusted. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for 20.