British rockers Space Elevator are back with a second album – called, fittingly enough for a bunch of incorrigible Queen fans, II – proving, in the process, that their superb debut album was no flash in the pan.
As with that first album, the band operates on the very edge of Sentinel Daily territory – beefy guitars courtesy of David Young often lifting songs out of pop rock territory and into the comfort zones of fans of music more metallic – but if you’re willing to open you’re ears a little and simply wallow in the band’s superior songwriting skills and smoothly impressive chops, then once again there is an awful lot to enjoy here.
Propulsive opener Take the Pain features some fine lead work from Young and the first of a series of commanding performances from vocalist The Duchess. Talk Talk is a little lighter, funky guitars flitting in and out of a keyboard accompaniment that sometimes brings American quirk exponents Jellyfish to mind. Once again Young pulls out all the stops come solo time.
Third track World of Possibilities finds the band at perhaps their most middle of the road – the little orchestrated part at the start of the chorus will make you think the band is going to break into Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – but the songs is worth staying with if only for one of the Duchess’ best performances on the record.
The One That Got Away is a radio-friendly ballad that again features a fine vocal – The Duchess once again proving that she can basically sing just about any style of music and deliver a top-drawer performance – but washes over the ears a little, so it’s up to the excellent Crazies (Take Me Home) to re-establish a bit of rockular equilibrium.
This it does courtesy of some crunchy riffage, and, obviously, a French language intro from The Duchess. This doesn’t last long, and very shortly we’re knee deep in another brilliant singalong refrain. Like their distant Euro counterparts Roxette, Space Elevator subscribe very much to a ‘don’t bore us, get to the chorus’ modus operandi, and once again here that blueprint hits impressive paydirt. Crazies is very definitely an album highlight.
Next up is a revisited, remixed take on We Can Fly from the first album – the band has put together a video for the track this time around – but the remix doesn’t add much to what is already a perfectly fine piece of pop rock. The album loses a little more momentum through the overlong All This Time, another ballad, but the new-wavy Far Away Boy really gets things back on the rails again.
Riffy, quirky, with a nice performance from Brian Greene (drums) and bassist Chas Maguire, Far Away Boy really sets the pulse racing but it does nothing to prepare you for what comes next.
Lucky Girl, which, in case you haven’t guessed, is what comes next, and is, simply put, utterly spine-tingling. The Duchess, backed superbly by Young, weaves a spellbinding tale, delivering the sort of vocal most singers will only ever dream of. The song ebbs and flows through several movements before Young delivers an assured and beautifully constructed solo. And then The Duchess takes the whole thing home, this time backed by swelling strings and a rock solid rhythm section, the intensity edging into the red as the song hits it’s final denouement, leaving the listener wanting more…
Next track Keep Waiting starts off sounding a little like Toto, before the edgy, eighties-inspired production takes you into the sort of territory that used to be occupied by the likes of Missing Persons and Scandal. An AOR fans dream, in other words. Penultimate track W.Y.T.A.T revisits the rap rock themes that the band’s semi-eponymous Elevator visited on the first album, The Duchess drawing on Neneh Cherry for inspiration, whilst Greene throws in a cheeky little Dave Grohl lick behind the kit.
Queen For A Day ends things in suitably grandiose, not to say pompous fashion, Young at last getting to unleash a solo that can only be described as ‘Mayesque’, and it’s this song that is perhaps the only real link between Space Elevator marks one and two; gone, for the most part, is the playfulness and West End glitz, replaced by a surety of purpose and performance that magnifies this band’s prodigious talent and the fact that this is definitely a massive step in the right direction for them as far as the world domination I predicted for them a couple of years goes.
The big time beckons, and everything about this album suggests the band will wear the crown well when it’s offered. Stay on target…
Space Elevator’s II is out on May 25th.