Gerald Stansbury.

Sometimes bands just appear that hit the right boxes at the right time, and I have to say the Bitterlicks did that for me. On the surface, this band from Tampere, Finland hit a similar sweet spot to the Hellacopters but have some different ingredients in the mix that really give them a different twist. These guys have no issue mixing classic rock, country, and blues into their punk n roll original formula. This creates a lot of diversity on this seven-song EP/ mini album and sets them up very well for the future as I anticipate they will be playing a few of these songs long into their career.

‘Snake in the Grass’ serves as a solid opener with its urgent beat (Simo Stenman) and catchy guitar riff by Raffe leading into the first verse where Juha Pöllänen reminds me of Nicke Andersson circa the ‘High Visibility’ album. The urgency and simplicity in the chorus compel the listener to start singing along quickly. The band slows things down a touch with ‘We’re on Fire.’ This comes across as some solid 70’s influenced hard rock with a well-picked guitar riff coming from the same musical ocean as the Hellacopters, Heavy Tiger, etc. The midtempo pace serves this song extremely well.

The band launches back into some high energy punk n roll with ‘Until We Meet Again’ which flies by in under two and half speed filled minutes. The bass breakdown by Samuli Pyykkönen sets up the guitar solo perfectly. The chorus is once again simple with the song title repeated a few times but doesn’t seem repetitious due to the lightning pace. The rolling beat of ‘Who?’ provides something very different and gets my feet moving each time it plays. The wordy chorus gets some added oomph with the additional vocals providing an initial hook that becomes stronger with repeated listens as the full chorus gets stuck in your head.

My favorite song here remains ‘Long Cold Winter’ after multiple listens with its opening line of ‘the last time I saw the sun rock n roll was still cool’ being an ace opening line. The chorus is loaded with a killer hook and reminds me musically of something Michael Monroe would do. The guitar solo is quick and simply slays. ‘Stay Close Enough’ is the initial video from the band and feels very nostalgic with its basic hook falling a little short of the classy song that immediately precedes it. Ironically though, this was the song that made me want to take a deeper listen, so it served its purpose well and speaks highly of the band that it gets swallowed up by the other songs here. ‘Grains of Sand’ closes the album with a blend of Johnny Cash, Social Distortion, and some current rockabilly influences. The chorus provides a great hook, and I could actually see this as their standard exit song as the country influences really add something different here. It also feels like a closer as opposed to a song that was just randomly placed at the end.

The Bitterlicks have served up a very enjoyable debut with these seven songs providing a wide spectrum of ideas for their future. They have clearly spent some time developing their own identity and working on their songs. I am not sure if this mini album will crack my Top 20 of this very strong year, but I would definitely rank ‘Long Cold Winter’ as one of my favourite songs of the year. My hunch tells me that this mini album will remain in my rotation for a long time.

‘Benzo Blues’ is available now.