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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Ian McNabb : Eclectic Warrior review

Worth the wait. It’s a phrase trotted out too easily to excuse what is usually the inexcusable.

This time, however, is different.

Fully 19 years since Ian McNabb released Mercury-nominated rock and roll album Head Like A Rock, he’s back with the follow-up.

That’s not to say the former Icicle Works frontman has been idle. Far from it. A prolific songwriter, he’s released no fewer than 11 albums and a host of EPs in that time.

But, good as they’ve been, none has quite lived up to the grunge guitar glory which characterised the 1994 set he recorded with Neil Young’s Crazy Horse as backing band.

Now, thanks to fans who have financed the album through the Pledge Music network, and raised cash for the Teenage Cancer Trust, the 52 year-old Scouser has plugged back in.

And cranked up the volume.

Because Eclectic Warrior, recorded with his new band Cold Shoulder, is a spitting, sputtering guitar album that Neil Young himself would have been proud to call his own.

It opens with Smirtin’ – short for smoking and flirting outside the pub – a cry for freedom with a shameless singalong chant guaranteed to ensure it is never played on the radio.

No Hero To Me is made from the same grumbly guitar stuff, McNabb’s melodic vocal questioning the politics of liberation. They Couldn’t Hear The Music is more measured, a song which, if stripped back, could have adorned the Emotional Party set.

It’s followed by My Life To Live Again, which initially echoes Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan.

(I Just Wanna) Rock’n’Roll My Life Away does what it says on the tin, a cousin to Understanding Jane. Gentle She Don’t Let Nobody, meanwhile, is a rarity resurrected for the album.

Woman Killed By Falling Tree, made up of newspaper headlines, breaks new ground before Fast Approaching Land sounds as if it was a Head Like A Rock out-take.

The House Always Wins recalls Icicle Works at their best, then the unashamed show-stealer Memory Be Good To Me is Youngian nine-minute guitar gravel.

Finalé Right On Time takes you back to 1994, too, but with a fresh face.

Not so much eclectic as electric, welcome back Ian McNabb. We’ve been missing you.

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