UK punk veterans GBH are back, and they’re armed with a new album, Momentum, which by my reckoning is their twelfth studio album.
At this stage in their near-forty year recording career there are no real surprises when you’re confronted with new material from the band; GBH aren’t in the business of reinvention, they have a basic framework that works well for them and they vary their output within those parameters.
This being a given, it’s perhaps a modern miracle just how fresh most of the material sounds on Momentum. First track Birmingham Smiles is a fast-paced paean to the band’s home town, vocalist Colin Abrahall stating his wish when he dies to be buried ‘under Brummagem soil’. It’s a great start to proceedings, and this is compounded by the poppier Tripwire Strange.
No News is straight-up street punk, but Population Bomb is a bit more complex, feeling a bit like classic Ruts in its composition and featuring some nice gang vocals on the chorus. Enemies carries on this more, dare I say it, ‘sophisticated’ feel and features a nice guitar solo from Colin Blyth. And those excellent backing vocals make another appearance.
Us Against the World has a sozzled rockabilly feel to it, and is sure to be a bit of a stormer live, Abrahall spitting out the lyrics as mass chicken dancing breaks out wherever the song is heard. It’s a neat little twist to the band’s sound, and it works very well.
The title track is a spitting, snorting barrelhouse punk barnstormer, featuring a classic Blyth riff and some rattling bass from Ross Lomas. Scott Preece’s drumming drives the whole thing forward with power and nifty footwork, and if you’re anything like me you’ll feel the years dropping off when you listen to this song.
Next track Perfect Storm is a riffy number that drops the pace a little, and again features some great backing vocals. Fifty What? again goes back towards rockabilly, with some swamp rock riffage and a chanted chorus, whilst I Never Asked For Any of This is darker, heavier and one of the best tracks on the album. A clipped riff backs Abrahall with menace and intent, the chorus again uses terrace chant tactics to ram it’s message home. Great stuff!
Blue Sky Thinking is again, just a straight up punker but the album ends on (for GBH) something of a surprise with the five minute plus Liquid Paradise (The Epic). The band fit a lot of elements into this track, and it really does have an ‘epic’ feel, like something prog punkers The Subhumans might have created in their glory days… with a gritty, Brummagem edge, obviously.
I don’t know whether ‘mature’ is the right word to apply to a GBH album, but this is certainly the most self-assured and fully-realised album the band has committed to wax to date. It’s shorn of much of the fire of their early releases, natch, but that piss and vinegar has been replaced by much more solid attributes like songwriting nouse and tight, well oiled playing. Momentum is a very strong album indeed.
Momentum is out now on Hellcat Records