The release of the debut album by The Naked Lunch in late 2019 seems to have escaped the attention of most – but I’m here to tell you it’s one hell of a slab of top order garage rock / power pop that you need to hear! What we have here are super upbeat tunes with a ton of melody, big chorus’, killer guitars and harmony vocals. This is a complete pop package with enough 60’s garage punk throwbacks to appeal to the purists, yet with a contemporary feel to appeal to pop pundits of all ages. Let’s dive in.
The current line-up of The Naked Lunch features Tony ‘The Kid’ Robertson on bass/vocals, Steve Beves on vocals and guitar, Tony Gibson on guitar and vocals and Murray Shepherd on drums and vocals. Both Robertson and Shepherd are in the current lineup of Hitmen DTK, yet before we go any further, let’s provide some history. This 14 track album is The Naked Lunch’s debut album, yet the band existed back in the mid-1980s, and ostensibly were put together by Robertson after the Hitmen’s demise in 1984. The band’s debut single ‘Little Too Late / Teenage Blues’ came out in 86 on Waterfront Records and included Gibson (ex-Howling Commandos and later – Rattlesnake Shake) on guitar. A couple of years later, the band released a 5 track EP called ‘Things Grow” on Green Fez Records (a subsidiary of Citadel). ‘Things Grow’ has Steve Beves (Melting Skyscrapers) on vocals, as well as Mick Medew on guitar and also Nancy Kiel of The Party Girls too. All 5 tunes on the EP are killer – from the catchy pop of ‘Foolish Pride’ to the psych garage punk of ‘Real Gone’, and it’s an EP worth hunting down.
So that was then – and this is now – 30 years later, The Naked Lunch have released their debut self-titled, 14 track album, and it’s a winner. The album opens in a big way with the unadulterated garage punk of ‘Crying Shame’. Lots of melodic hooks and fierce guitar. ‘Melting’ follows suit and is a BIG tune – littered with singing guitar harmonies, infectious chorus’ and melodic sensibilities abound. Great power pop and in an era when the concept don’t exist no more- radio friendly. ‘When You Were Mine’ is another highlight and has hit single written all over it. Yep, I know it’s a Prince tune, originally appearing on his 1980 album ‘Dirty Mind’, yet this cover is sublime. Searing heavy pop with hard edged guitars and a singalong chorus. If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear that this could have been a Hitmen tune from ’79. That’s a fine thing folks. ‘Need’ is resplendent in glorious 60’s garage punk primitivism yet still real tuneful. Roy Loney (RIP) approved. I also dig the frantic riff heavy efficiency of ‘Hell No’ and it’s effective use of harmony vocals – and again, that stinging guitar attack, a key feature on all this material. The darker themed ‘No Surprise’ also holds plenty of garage appeal with its mash of downbeat minor chords and bold chorus. Can I make mention of the blue ribbon musical chops on this album ? Murray Shepherd is a monster on drums, yet his vocals also score big points. The harmony vocals on all these tunes emphasise some serious vocal talent, and as I’m a sucker for hooks, melody and chorus’ – Naked Lunch have it down in spades. Tony Gibson’s melodic guitar is all over each tune, and another key ingredient, as is Beves’ vocal – strong, defined and resonant. Robertson’s melodic bass lines add multiplicity to each song, and again, the musical muscle with Murray Shepherd that underscores the whole thing. Take a listen to the bass runs on “Granny Takes A Trip” as evidence of this. Robertson’s bass is front and centre on “Why Do I Cry”, yet another with plenty of pop hook appeal, while ‘Passionate Man’ maintains the dynamics. Absolutely love ‘There She Goes Again’, total killer pop with a feel-good vibe, a singalong chorus and more harmony vocals –what’s not to like ? Think of any classic singles that came out on Bomp! in the late 70’s and you are on the money. In summary, The Naked Lunch album scores big on hooks, melody and harmony vocals. Lots of catchy sing-a-long chorus’, scorching melodic guitars and heavy, unadulterated pop/garage rock leanings. Recommended! 8 out of 10.
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