They used to say that rock ‘n’ roll would never die, and you have to admit that it’s put up a pretty good fight over the last sixty years of its existence. It’s had many champions over the decades, but the latest is Raymond Meade, a Scots rocker who pulls no punches on Whydolise? If you’re looking for a short, sharp nine-track combination of muscular guitar rock, strong vocals and nimble melodies then this could be the main event of 2015.
Meade first came to prominence with the late lamented, post-post-punk Glasgow outfit The Ronelles, a band that lived the music by firing on all cylinders onstage only to implode backstage. Following their disintegration in 2007, Meade took a break from music until the release of his first solo album, 2010’s Fables and Follies. The recording received warm reviews and considerable airplay, but these are lean times for music made with that kind of heart.
On Whydolise? Raymond Meade begs a serious question about celebrity-driven popular culture by reminding listeners what authentic, drop-dead-gorgeous rock’n’roll can sound like in the 21st Century. If you’re still wondering where all the good times have gone then this album might help you in your search for clues.
The first thing to point out about Whydolise? is that it’s so thick with musical references that you can’t hear where one rock decade ends and another begins. In that sense, this is a very contemporary take on music that stubbornly defies the ageing process. Meade has absorbed everything that’s gone before to the point where it’s part of his make up as a songwriter and fundamental to his approach as a performer.
The arrangements and instrumental choices are most certainly informed by skilled judgement and long experience, not least from renowned producer Owen Morris, but that’s not the whole story of Whydolise? It’s all about the songs, and they’re full of instantly memorable melodic hooks that are the hallmark of quality pop music.
Meade also has an ingenious way with intros and many of the tunes signpost a familiar direction, only to be taken somewhere unexpected. For example, Sent Home Under Sirens starts out by suggesting a stadium-sized epic is on its way before morphing into a sweetly sung memoir of disenchantment that builds into a passionately self-affirming chorus. The gloves are definitely off in a lyric that is both wry and angry, and of course, the bitter always comes out better on a wailing guitar.
The album opens with Let The Wolves In and it had me searching for my big boy’s book of sublimated rock memories. I came up with wall-of-sound John Kongos meets Def Leppard,. However, it’s more of an overture than a song and a smart curtain raiser for the second track Why Don’t We Do It Again? – a frantic, full-on sax and drums and piano rock’n’rolla with all the thrills, fills and frills attached. And just for good measure the track also features the late, great saxophinist Bobby Keys on typically rip-roaring form.
If you still think that rock ‘n” roll is a bit backdated, like a fighter who doesn’t know when to quit, then cop a listen to Come Undone and tell me you don’t hear a beautiful song that shows the form is still in good shape. It features a lovely performance by Justin Currie on lead vocal, and incidentally showcases one of the finest pop voices of his (or any other) generation.
Sadhana is another highlight that dares to hint how The Clash might have sounded like if they had actually sung their choruses instead of just shouting them. Steve Craddock guests on guitar and the Ocean Colour Scene man brings the spirit of something we feared lost in the age of X-Factor puppetry. He’s the real deal and he plays like he loves it all just as much as the day he bought his first guitar.
Raymond Meade has many things in his locker but the most potent of them is a gift for producing songs intuitively sourced from the cumulative wealth of the rock and pop repertoire. Tunes like Hide and Seek and the closing track Shine A Light may musically and lyrically explore familiar themes of longing and redemption, but Meade wears his rock ‘n’ roll heart on his sleeve, and that’s what makes the songs all the more compelling.
Michael S. Clark
Whydolise? is released on 11th May