Talk about your “difficult 3rd albums”; come 2016 when Nick and Danny decided to call it a day, you wouldn’t have blamed Paul & LD for cutting their losses too. However, Federal Charm always had this tough gritty core and instead of just drowning their sorrows in Boddingtons they decided to fight back; nowt like a little adversity to bring the best out in folk….. In short order, they recruited a tungsten-tonsiled howler, Tom Guyer and another heavy hitter behind the skins, Josh Zahler, and for extra kick, Kyle Ross for that 2nd guitar + keys & backing vocals. And then it was out on the road to check with those who kept faith, had they got it right…..
Oh, Blimey, yes they have. They’ve taken one step sideways and two steps forward. Most of the Bluesy and punky cocoon has been shaken off and what’s emerged has more bluster and bite with Zeppelin-esque ideas that are crystallised into perfect bites of jagged rhythms and staccato dynamics reminiscent of Rival Sons at their best. Over songs with a bleak lyrical feel of relationship break-ups, Tom Guyer’s huge phrasing soars over the intense rhythms of LD’s bass, intertwining with Paul’s ripping riffs, all nailed by Josh’s dynamic pounding. There are so many new echoes here, from Monster Truck to The Who. One thing is for certain, Paul’s buzzing and riffing guitar has met a perfect foil with Tom’s overarching voice.
Of the 11 tracks and 40-odd minute running time, there’s hardly a wasted moment; Get Through, is short, sharp & to the point, Sing Sinner aches with tension while Choke is a bona-fide classic. The stylistic difference between Speak Out and Concrete Creature show that they’re not afraid to experiment with new sounds, but at the cost of a unified direction.
It’s not all power-bluster though, Emerald Haze sees the band winding it down and the music has more room to develop and mature. Nowhere Is Home is another case in point, warm, sweeping melodies and this time it’s the keys that blend seamlessly with the vocals. These vocals also have an expressive and at times pointed edge in songs like Death Rattle.
In one way, you could almost see this as being a debut album, but you must not lose sight of the previous releases, with Nick Bowden’s co-writing which set Federal Charm a solid foundation of work and a reputation for energetic performances that have surely been a spring-board for this new, fatter and more relentless style. Yes, they are still in some ways finding their feet with this new, more aggressive style, but then they are so much closer to the great promise they always showed at the start; not so much “passengers” anymore, but rising phoenix-like.
Still a little way to go, but for sheer audacity I give this 85%. It's a hell of a good album; from a band that's just getting wound up - buy it!
Choke - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjtgSz_84Hg
All those who believe in psychokenesis raise my hand........