Release Date: Mar 10, 2014
Record label: Clouds Hill
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
James Johnston’s CV inspires much admiration and a lot of jealousy. He’s collaborated with, been in bands with, and played his ass off for luminaries and icons galore. His reputation as a multi-instrumentalist has seen him, as a member of The Bad Seeds, provide organ and guitar on Nick Cave’s crackling, unhinged masterpiece DIG!!! LAZARUS DIG!!! and organ on his dichotomous, paradoxical masterpiece Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus.
The post-Y2K years have not been kind to suave swamprock veterans Gallon Drunk. They were forced into hiatus while frontman James Johnston toiled with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds between 2002’s Fire Music and ’07’s wild, London-centric The Rotten Mile, while 2012’s visceral The Road Gets Darker From Here arrived in the wake of bassist Simon Wring’s tragic death. However, a reconfigured line-up has convened for the band’s eighth studio set, The Soul Of The Hour, with new bassist Leo Kurunis joining core Drunks Johnston, drummer Ian White and brass maestro Terry Edwards.
More than two decades on from their debut album and in the wake of the death of bassist Simon Wring, Gallon Drunk have developed a thicker skin than they once had. There's a bit less swagger and noticeably more focus and determination in Gallon Drunk's ninth studio effort, 2014's The Soul of the Hour, but the result is a powerful set of songs that live up to this band's formidable legacy. Opening with "Before the Fire," which begins with understated drums and piano and slowly builds to a howling frenzy, The Soul of the Hour finds Gallon Drunk laying claim to a place where darkness holds all risk and all power, and as they wind their way through raunchy hard rock ("The Dumb Room"), slow bluesy studies (the title tune), gentle but forbidding soundscapes ("Dust in the Light"), and garage-psych freakouts ("The Speed of Fear"), Gallon Drunk confirm they have the muscle and the imagination to make this stuff both personal and compelling.
To say that Gallon Drunk are enjoying a second wind is like saying we've had a slightly damp winter - a squally understatement that is way off the Beaufort scale. After the elegiac and reflective quality of The Road Gets Darker Than Here, already a high watermark for the band comes The Soul Of The Hour: emphatically titled, more strident and more rollicking. They've come a long way since 1992's first album You, The Night & The Music but are in ruder health than ever, despite sounding like hell's own house band.
In 2012, Gallon Drunk, after having been on hiatus for a few years, released an absolutely smashing comeback record: the fiery, feral The Road Gets Darker From Here. Choosing to strike while the iron is hot to follow up that triumph, instead of waiting another half decade, the reconstituted band (with touring bassist Leo Kurunis fully integrated) gives us The Soul of the Hour. Moodier, weirder and more psychedelic than its predecessor, Hour kicks off with “Before the Fire,” nine minutes of slow build and crescendo built on menacing keyboards and tense hornwork.