Anyone who is old enough to have thrived on the nineties rock music scene will remember the Little Angels and also the bouncing vocals (and curls) of frontman Toby Jepson. If you hadn’t been following Toby’s career, you might be forgiven for thinking that this is his first project in a long time, but you would be sorely mistaken. Our Toby has been a busy bee over the years, fully utilising his songwriting and production talents for some high profile names, but if the last couple of years with Wayward Sons are anything to go by, clearly his heart lies in performing with a band on a live stage.
The Sons’ burst onto the scene in 2017, with the critically acclaimed debut album, ‘Ghosts of Yet To Come’; featuring top class musicians from bands such as Chrome Molly, Gun and of course, Little Angels, the band quickly ascended the rock ranks as a well-respected outfit, winning the accolade of ‘Best New Band’ at the esteemed Planet Rock Awards in 2018. They toured the ‘Ghosts’ album extensively, with a mixture of headline and support gigs and also several festival appearances, including Winter’s End, Ramblin’ Man and Stonedeaf. Now, the eagerly awaited second album is finally upon us; released last Friday, ‘The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be’ is described as, “Hard rock, but mixed with a vitality and energy – both musically and lyrically”.
Comprised of twelve tracks (plus a little hidden treat at the end), this album is not just a random collection of songs. It is common knowledge that Jepson counts Freddie Mercury’s Queen as perhaps his highest influence, as well as admiring the storytelling mastery of other greats such as Elvis Costello and David Bowie. It therefore comes as no surprise that the record has been loosely billed as a ‘concept’ album, having a ‘narrative thread’ connecting the twelve tracks. A description on the band’s Facebook page says it is, “A ‘protest’ record and [Toby] describes the new materials as ‘political’, but not of the sort that seeks to hammer the message home, more of a reflection of his take on where the world and we are.”
So far, so good, but are the songs any good? When I first listen to an album, I try and wipe my mind of anything that has gone before it, because sometimes second albums can be notoriously disappointing. I like to take each record as it comes and this … well, it appears that this is a belter. From the guitar picking introduction and pure spine tingling melody of Toby’s vocals (which are still as good today as they were twenty odd years ago), opener ‘Any Other Way’, is a rousing, fresh romp of a track that really does set the scene for what follows. Listen carefully for the sweet harmonies on the unrelenting ‘Black As Sin’ and the twinkly piano sound on new single, ‘The Joke’s On You’, which carries a slightly more relaxed tempo and (I might be mistaken) also features a cheeky bit of cowbell.
I liked the meandering tempo on ‘Little White Lies’; it’s also very clear to see those main influences coming into play, particularly with the vocal effects and in the guitar sound and solo. I also particularly liked the showcasing of Toby’s voice on the frenetic (and ironic) ‘Feel Good Hit’.
‘Fade Away’ features some rather beautiful piano on the intro (and again, it’s great to hear that mellifluous voice with no musical distraction), before exploding into a Bowie-esque, soaring, glorious wall of sound; again the Queen influence comes into play towards the end of the song.
The title track is a solid, chugging and bouncy anthem; thanks Toby, for that particular ear worm, I couldn’t get it out of my head for hours. The pace cranks up yet again with next track, ‘Punchline’, which features a wicked, tight solo near the end.
I have many favourite tracks on this album, but ‘Totally Screwed’, the hidden, final track resonated with me on many levels; I liked the pacy, punky feel to the song and also identified with the lyrics; if you know me, you’ll understand why I say that when you listen to it!
The lyrical and musical progression of the band is clearly in evidence on album number two, which is a more confident and settled effort than the debut; whilst the style is still clearly owned by Jepson and the Wayward Sons, there is more artistic expression and exploration of musical style here, than there was on ‘Ghosts’. There is also a very clear nod to the music of Jepson’s heroes, with a classic sound coming through that is unmistakable in its influence. The PR blurb puts it beautifully, describing this album as, “Passionate, honest music made by passionate, honest musicians who have come together to create rock music that reflects their heroes from the ‘70s and ‘80’s – modernity through homage, that’s Wayward Sons.” I couldn’t have put it better myself and I couldn’t agree more. This album is a valuable addition to any self respecting music fan’s collection and I can’t help thinking that “The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be” is going to be a runaway success; it’s certainly in my top five albums of the year.
Be sure to catch Wayward Sons on a live stage near you, in support of Black Star Riders; I’ve seen them a few times now and their energetic live performances totally bring their already technicolour songs into even brighter focus.
Track Listing –
- Any Other Way
- As Black As Sin
- Joke’s On You
- Little White Lies
- Feel Good Hit
- Fade Away
- Have It Your Own Way
- Long Line Of Pretenders
- (If Only) God Was Real
- The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be
- Us Against The World
Wayward Sons are –
- Toby Jepson – Vocals/Guitar
- Nic Wastell – Bass
- Phil Martini – Drums
- Sam Wood – Guitar
- Dave Kemp – Keyboards
‘The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be’ (released 11 October 2019 on Frontiers Music s.r.l)
- Queen of Rock rating – 8.5/10
- Stand out tracks – ‘Any Other Way’, ‘Black As Sin’, ‘Joke’s On You’, ‘Fade Away’ and ‘The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be’
Four part video ‘story’ –
- Video for ‘The Joke’s On You’ (Part 1 of 4)
- Video for ‘Any Other Way’ (Part 2 of 4)
- Video for ‘Little White Lies’ (Part 3 of 4)
- Video for ‘The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be’ (Part 4 of 4)
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