As someone who has followed Def Leppard’s career for nigh on four decades, I’ve always kind of thought of Joe Elliott’s Down N Outz as something he did between tours just to keep himself busy. Formed as a celebration of the music Elliott grew up listening to, I’ve only casually listened to their previous two studio albums and live album simply because I’m at a loss regarding how you could ever better those old Mott songs?
The band’s new album ‘This Is How We Roll’ is an altogether different proposition for me though as it features just one cover (of the Tubes’ ‘White Punks On Dope’) and here we finally get to hear what the Down N Outz (also featuring The Quireboys’ Paul Guerin and Guy Griffin on guitar, Keith Weir on keyboards, with Vixen’s Share Ross on bass, and Wayward Sons’ Phil Martini on drums) actually sound like doing their own thang.
Opener ‘Another Man’s War’ actually takes me right back to the days when I first heard ‘Wasted’, it might only sound like Joe’s day job band in vocals alone but its got that same organic vibe that those early Leppard songs had in spades, and whilst this is probably the most Mott sounding track on ‘This Is How We Roll’ rest assured it is anything but a pastiche. Likewise, the album’s title track has an almost ‘High N Dry’ feel to it, and it is a pleasure to hear Elliott singing without multi-layered backing vocals. In fact, he’s probably never sounded more relaxed and in control of his voice.
The emotionally-charged piano-driven ‘Goodbye Mr. Jones’ is the type of tune guaranteed to give you goosebumps but for me, it is the much more subtle lyrical references during the jaunty pop of ‘Creatures’ that truly ticks all the boxes in the Bowie (yup that Mr. Jones) tribute department. This is easily my favourite track on ‘This Is How We Roll’ simply because it sounds like the band is having a wail of a time just doing what the hell they want to do.
With Elliott and Ronan McHugh behind the desk the production values on ‘This Is How We Roll’ are awesomely 70s-tastic – lush where they need to be, like on the almost Carpenters meets Cats In Space pomp of ‘Last Man Standing’ or truly bonkers like on the Beatles-y musical interludes of ‘Music Box’ and album closer ‘The Destruction Of Hideous Objects, Pt 3’.
‘Boys Don’t Cry’ meanwhile is a four to the floor rocker that puts me very much in mind of those ‘Hysteria’ era b sides where the band had the Lange production shackles loosened slightly and sounded like they were actually enjoying themselves. Look, I’m not being critical of that multi-platinum selling 80s version of Def Leppard it’s just that ‘This Is How We Roll’ took five years to record because of the respective members day job commitments – not because everything had to be multi tracked to the point of the song sounding almost secondary to the production. Just listen to the gospel tinged ‘Walking to Babylon’ or the dramatic ‘Let It Shine’ for examples of this in reverse, both are mid-tempo piano driven tunes that really do shine and could have very easily fitted into a Radio Caroline playlist back in the day.
The album’s only cover, ‘White Punks On Dope’ is also done very much in the Down N Outz style, and that in itself is what doing a cover should always be all about. Making it your own, so to speak.
I’ve had nothing but ‘This Is How We Roll’ on my stereo since it dropped a few days ago and my only slight criticism is that at twelve tracks in length (three of them being interludes and one a cover) I really could have done with hearing more of how the Down N Outz themselves really do roll. That’s because when these now not so young dudes and dudette get the bit firmly between their teeth on the eight original songs contained here it really is like the Golden Age of Rock N Roll all over again.
Glorious stuff indeed!
Author: Johnny Hayward
Buy ‘This Is How We Roll’ Here