It’s nearly 30 years since Sweden’s finest funk n rollers the Electric Boys first hit our TV screens (if like me you caught the low budget promo for ‘Get Nasty’ on The Power Hour back in the day, that is). Anyway, I always had a soft spot for Conny Bloom and the boys, their debut album ‘Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride’ received heavy rotation on my boom box, courtesy of a second generation tape recorded off a mate’s vinyl copy..I still have it too.
Although they had a bit of a cult following in the UK and heavy MTV rotation, the rise of Grunge was too much and ‘Groovus Maximus’ and the following ‘Freewheelin’ failed to set the world on fire, they lost their deal and the band sadly…disbanded. It’s a familiar story, right?
After a 4 year stint in the rejuvenated Hanoi Rocks, Conny and Bassist Andy Christell reformed the Electric Boys and released ‘And Them Boys Done Swang’ in 2011. Now with the original line up intact, they return with the follow up to their critically acclaimed 2014 album ‘Starflight United’.
Although they were given the funk tag, the Electric Boys were never really that funky were they? If anything there may have been a touch of Sly & The Family Stone to their sound but their hearts and souls were firmly planted in 60’s pop and groove-heavy 70’s rock rather than anything else. And that is the direction this album follows, although they do touch on their funk in places, this is a straight-edged rock album.
Recorded and produced in Stockholm at Ghost Ward studios by David Castillo, better known for his work with metal bands such as Katatonia and Opeth, ‘The Ghost Ward Diaries’ is a continuation of where the band left off 4 years ago.
The first thing I take from ‘Ghost Ward Diaries’ is how instant it is and how good it sounds, sonically. While it’s a traditional sounding rock album, the crisp, punchy production gives it an edgy modern feel. There’s a cocksure confidence to it. It’s full of swagger, and more importantly, full of stadium-sized choruses. If you are familiar with the recent Michael Monroe solo albums, then you may understand what I’m getting at.
Opener ‘Hangover In Hannover’ is a classic Bloom rocker with a simplistic riff and hook. I had to do a double take on that verse, as it could’ve easily been lifted from one of those post-Millennium Hanoi or Monroe solo albums, yet the bridge is pure Electric Boys. A perfect album opener. “Cold, outta money, heartbroken and pissed” sings Conny, as the music stops momentarily. A down on luck, rock ‘n’ roll road tale.
‘There She Goes Again’ has a classic, rousing verse that catches the attention from the off, before a sing-a-long-a-chorus comes on full of sentiment. A Chuck Berry-styled solo over glorious riffarama makes this an early highlight.
The ballads are full of sentiment; they’re catchy and melodic in all the right places. ‘You Spark My Heart’ takes the classic 80’s power ballad formula and gives it a modern twist, the guitars sound massive. ‘Gone, Gone, Gone’ is the big ballad, acoustic guitars, sweet choral backing vocals, a face shredder of a solo and a big chorus. What’s not to like here? Yep, they nailed it.
There is plenty to keep longtime fans happy as well. The funked up, bluesy groover ‘Love Is A Funny Feeling’ nods its head to the debut album, as does the slide-infused ‘Rich Man, Poor Man’. The band continue to get their funk out on the groovy ‘Knocked Out By Tyson’, with its killer riff and soulful backing vocals that remind me of The Black Crowes classic single ‘Remedy’, it’s an absolute belter.
While the instrumental ‘Swampmotofrog’ is a more experimental jam that I can take or leave, the likes of album closer ‘One Of The Fallen Angels’ with its euphoric chorus is essential listening. Yep, you could say the fine art of a catchy chorus has not been lost on these boys.
While Scandinavia has consistently blessed us with new and exciting underground bands for the past 20 years, you could call Electric Boys the old guard. They have been at this game, albeit inconsistently, for over 30 years, and while they may not have the legendary status or even the back catalogue of the likes of Hanoi Rocks, they hold their own, have adapted to the times and are making music as fresh and as vibrant as their debut sounded in 1989. Lyrically, Conny Bloom is in a darker place with these stories inspired by tales on the road but ‘The Ghost Ward Diaries’ is a euphoric testament to a band of survivors who refuse to lie down. Three albums into their comeback, it’ll be interesting to see where the band go next.