Listening to the debut album by The Whole Damn Affair (WDA for simplicity’s sake in this review) has reminded me that there is a whole genre of music that has really disappeared from the mainstream over the past 30-plus years. There was a distinct category that we could refer to as rock music, and people would have a general idea of what it might sound like, whether it ranged from the J. Geils Band to Bruce Springsteen to Tina Turner to Bryan Adams. There was a crossover with the likes of George Thorogood & the Destroyers, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and other similar acts. With all the increased boxes some people have used to label bands, this one really doesn’t get utilized much for new artists with legacy artists being deemed classic rock, nostalgia, etc. So, what does this have to do with WDA? Musically, this is a timeless rock album with very well-crafted songs and excellent use of female backing vocals and horns to enrich them.

With a final track list order still in flux, I am going to run through this version which may or may not end up the official one per Mister Jimmy. Things kick off here with second single ‘Elegant Ruse’ which introduces itself with a cool drum pattern and then some subtle electric guitar. This song has really grown on me with multiple listens. This one utilizes some horn in the verse that is subtle in the mix but really takes a great song to even loftier heights. The hook isn’t over the top but extremely catchy. The build-up in the song turns into a well-done guitar solo and sets up the end to a song that should be dynamite live. Hints of blues and soul fill second song ‘Rid a Me’ with a full dose of character and a great mix of guitar and horns. The female backing vocals here fill out the sound and make sure there is not one wasted second in this song. The bridge again shows the band knows how to create dynamics within songs, and this is another of many favourites on the album for me.

‘Burn Me Down’ reminds me a bit of ‘Sticky Fingers’ era Stones with the instruments all having room to breathe in the mix. The piano works perfectly in the song, and this really could have been a fun straight-ahead rock n roll song for the likes of the Georgia Satellites, Izzy Straddlin, the Poor Boys (remember them?), etc. Vocally, Mister Jimmy sings all the songs here with a smooth delivery that has just the right amount of grit where it doesn’t feel too smooth. Currently placed in the traditional ballad spot, ‘Trouble Again’ slows the tempo a bit with Mister Jimmy channelling some Michael Hutchence in the verses but doesn’t qualify as a ballad. I mentioned it earlier, but WDA makes me want to hear all these songs live. The first single ‘Hard Way Down’ wraps up the first half of the album and is one of my favourite songs over the past several years. I have been living with this album for about a month now, and one of the comparisons that has come to mind for this song goes back to the 90’s band The Loveless that arose from the ashes of the Electric Angels. Where they turned the gloss and pop up for maximum effect, WDA have turned up the rock and soul here. Lyrically, musically- songs really don’t come much better than this for my tastes.

Kicking off the second half of the album (vinyl due later this year), the band keep the momentum moving with ‘A Question Tonight.’ The band again channels soul into their sound with this hook-filled anthem, and the breakdown leads into my favourite guitar solo on the album. The band kick into ‘Falling Apart’ which musically reminds me a bit of Lenny Kravitz and will be a bonus track on the vinyl and a future b-side. Musically, this is probably the heaviest (in the context of these songs) WDA go. I like the way the band fills the mix with the instruments and the backing vocals, but everything is still easy to discern while listening. ‘Fleet Foot Runner” increases the tempo as a straight-ahead rocker but gets a bit overshadowed within the songs on the album. Coming in at a tight two and a half minutes though, I have not skipped this one and find it has grown on me.  

Kicking off the final stretch is current single ‘Not Your Fault’ which lyrically is an awesome message from an adult son to his mother who had him as a teenager. Filled with imagery that fuels an already powerful message, WDM pack this song with emotional depth and match it musically with an up-tempo beat. There is an assertiveness musically to ‘Take It Out on Me’ combined with some grit and darkness for a catchy rocker designed to make people move their body. Wrapping up the album is ‘We Don’t Work’ which dials back the intensity and again reminds me a bit of the Stones. The band ends on a high note with the sax work being highlighted.  

The Whole Damn Affair have crafted a brilliant album that deserves a wide audience, and I think that can happen if people check it out because I immediately started telling my friends about this band when I heard them. If you want to hear some rock music filled with soul and heart, get this one fired up for a listen and then hopefully buy a copy on vinyl when it becomes available. I know I will.

‘The Whole Damn Affair” is available Digitally May 10th with vinyl coming later this year.

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Author: Gerald Stansbury