Welsh hopefuls Buffalo Summer certainly have their hearts in the right place, that much is evident from even a cursory listen to their new album Second Sun; Opening track Money kicks the doors in and demands your attention from the get go, being a sincere, well-meaning synthesis of – well, just about every ‘classic rock’ artist that ever lived, really…
…And that’s the big problem with this album. There are just so many of these new traditionalist bands cluttering up the market place at the moment that any whiff of originality has quite literally gone up in smoke in an effort to be as ‘authentic’ as possible, and to stay as true to the source material as one can get away with without the courts getting involved. Hence Heartbreakin’ Floorshakin’, despite a driving rhythm from sticksman Gareth Hunt and a passable chorus, ends up sounding like Rival Sons jamming with The Answer at a Free convention, which is quite frankly not the sort of thing anybody should have to listen to.
Make You Mine features a committed vocal from Andrew Hunt yet sounds like a horrendous mashup of Thirsty Merc and Jet, so it’s up to the excellent Neverend to actually arrest the ears with something more interesting.
Neverend is where Buffalo Summer start to make sense, as the band lays off the retro boogie tedium and actually puts together a nice piece of laid back funk rock which again highlights the excellent vocal prowess of Hunt but also features some nice licks from guitarist Jonny Williams and solid basswork from Darren King. As High as the Pines carries on the good work, partially, although the band are too happy to settle with a tepid groove between the excellent choruses when maybe a little more experimentation would have been welcome.
The balladic Light of the Sun is excellent, marrying a simple main riff to a fabulously melodic chorus and an impassioned solo from Williams that will see the hairs on the back of your neck standing to attention every time you hear the song. This really is top notch stuff, and it’s hard to reconcile yourself to the fact that the same band wrote Heartbreakin’ Floorshakin’ and Light of the Sun.
Unfortunately we’re back to the Paul Rodgers worship with Levitate, which unfortunately fails to get off the ground in the manner its title would suggest. This is the sort of half-baked bluesman bluster that Reef cornered the market in in the nineties; Then it might have come across as British rock’s answer to Britpop’s sixties obsession. In 2016 it just comes across as plodding and hackneyed. Similarly the uptempo Into Your Head fails to hit the target, though at least it breaks the blues shackles and rocks things up a bit.
Next track Little Charles rips along in a nice r n’b style, all blazing horns and wah wah mayhem, but Hunt doesn’t have the requisite grit in his voice to make the song sound like anything other than try hard; In the hands of a Chris Robinson this track would slay. In the hands of Hunt it merely wounds slightly.
He fares better on Priscilla, where again the band succeed by cutting back on the bluster and just concentrating on the song. It’s no coincidence that Williams sounds more effective here come solo time, as his excellent lead work again takes the song to another level.
Bird on a Wire drifts by without really denting the consciousness, which leaves Water to Wine to round out proceedings. Which it does with a lazy charm but no real lasting effect.
Some of the material here is well worth a listen, and the playing of Jonny Williams is an absolute delight to listen to throughout – but I for one would love to hear Buffalo Summer trying to distance themselves from the more prosaic material in their repertoire and heading for more interesting waters. They’ve definitely got the chops… have they got the guts to make the break? I hope so.