A lot can change over the course of three years. The debut full length by the Glam Skanks rocked my musical world with its mix of 70’s glam and glitter influences mixed with classic rock, hard rock, and a healthy dose of attitude. After living with the album for quite some time, it became the first review I ever wrote so it carries that special memory with me as well. Since that time, charismatic vocalist Ali Cat left the band during the end of the touring cycle for the album with her replacement Vanessa McNiel joining, and the band continuing to tour. I was shocked at the change because I feel Ali just has “it,” that star quality that so few possess. Vanessa had huge shoes to fill for my musical taste, and I had totally unfounded concerns in my head soon after the change that this would be the end of that special musical connection I felt with the band. My hunch is the members spent the time touring and discovering that they have a great chemistry with Vanessa as well, whose excellence I will champion throughout this piece. Another key change in the world involved the presidency here in the United States and several things that have come to be due to current policies. Lyrically, there have been some changes where the band have some songs spell out exactly how they feel. With ‘Glitter City,’ some of the lyrics dealt more with interpersonal relationships and the bad things that can happen to people when they treat others poorly (‘Karma’ and ‘Bad Bitch’ for example); the band has successfully addressed much larger social issues on this album. The Glam Skanks have come forward to remind us that not only are they one of the best up and coming bands, but they are also one of the best bands period.
A gradual fade in introduces ‘No Way to Live’ which carries with it some AC/DC edge in the verses combined with some 70’s glam accents on the end of the chorus that really give the song more character and a Glam Skanks stamp on it. Veronica stands tall as one of my favorite guitarists as she lays down the riff and resists the urge to overplay on songs. This lead song immediately told me that things would be a little different than their debut. While I have heard their lead single from the album many times, I did my best to black it out while listening to the album. Vanessa gets some open verses to highlight and make her voice known. Her voice fits the band perfectly, and you will be singing along with her by the last chorus. ‘How Do You Sleep at Night?’ features a great riff by Veronica with a nice groove being laid down by Millie (bass) and Jessica (drums). Sound-wise, the band has perhaps channeled more 70’s rock than glam on the album, but this is quite simply timeless in its execution. The chorus on this one is not complicated, but it has enough to become addictive without feeling repetitive. Vanessa uses a combination of power and a lighter touch in her vocal as she encourages the listener to pay attention and take action in the world. Another awesome riff and groove feature in ‘Push and Pull Me (like you do)’ features one of my favorite hooks on the album and provides a great showcase for Veronica to lay down a great guitar solo.
‘Anything in Between’ follows and is another hard rock gem with the band expertly explaining why gender norms are not necessary and up to each person. This is another great chorus that immediately demands to be sung while the guitar riff is part Aerosmith, part NWOBHM (think Def Leppard and not Diamond Head), and pure excellence. ‘Jurassic Snark’ comes from the same musical well as ‘Karma’ from their debut with the slow hard burning blues putting the emphasis on the power. It provides a great close to the first half of the album as each musician gets to shine on this one.
First single/ video ‘Time Warp Woman’ opens the second half of the album, and, while it took a couple listens for me, this is another great hard rock song with another anthem for a chorus. I love that beat that Millie and Jessica lay down with the piano in the mix really highlighting that this song comes from the ’70s by way of today. It is a brilliant melding of musical worlds. The vocals in the bridge are a highlight from the album, even if I wish it stretched out a bit more, as well with the band showing yet another side to their sound. The band then change gears with a slower early Alice Cooper vibe giving way to a sizzling performance by Vanessa on the vocals where her tone and feel recall a big ballad approach. This combination with some tasteful backing vocals give the song a unique approach. It also continues to show that the Glam Skanks are not going to be boxed into any categories. They showed incredible diversity on ‘Glitter City’ and have continued to show they do not want to make songs that all sound alike, but they also all have this common DNA which let’s us know that we are listening to the Glam Skanks. Their albums become a journey where you do not want to just listen to a song or two, you want to hear them all because they all bring something different to the experience. The band bring together decades of rock n roll with the ‘Spirit of Rock n Roll’ recalling many trailblazers from the past, similar to ’29 x the Pain’ by the Wildhearts. The guitar solo comes from the spirit of Chuck Berry with the band also musically recalling everyone from the likes of David Bowie, T.Rex, and Suzie Quatro.
The last two songs go deeper lyrically with today’s social media dominated world being address in ‘Who’s Watching Who?’ where the band questions our goldfish bowl type approach to life. The bluesy groove fits the song perfectly with the pre-chorus setting up a great hook. Veronica lays down another great solo which is short on the album but could be a great opportunity for an extended one live. Final track ‘Land of the Free’ features spoken word style vocals as the current story of the southern border of the United States is told. The band brings many elements to the table here with the initial samples at the beginning and the chorus of voices near the end of the song being joined by some punk spirit that reminds us of how varied and deep the Skanks are in their approach. The closing sample again reminding us of our civic responsibilities to do what needs to be done.
‘Glitter City’ was a landmark debut for me, and I was honestly afraid this album was doomed to fail when the change in singers happened. I have seen drummers come and go in the band more frequently than Spinal Tap, so those changes have not rattled me. The musical combination of Veronica and Millie is quite simply magical. Ali brought with her strengths and contributions which will always be amazing; Vanessa has demonstrated that she fits the band equally well with her own unique abilities. The old adage that a sophomore slump is to be expected because of the length of time artists have to create their debut versus the follow up can be thrown out the door here. The Glam Skanks have continued to grow and develop as artists while creating 10 new songs that do not copy what they did before but instead also provide them with 10 more songs that can be used in the live setting to highlight their diversity. In a year with so many great albums being released this summer, it takes a lot to take up musical residency on my system, but this one has joined the rotation with the likes of the Wildhearts, Poison Boys, Dogs D’amour, Darts, Geoff Palmer, and the Sweet Things. Rock n roll is truly alive and well.
‘Anything in Between’ is available now.
Author: Gerald Stansbury