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Hot Leg – Red Light Fever

March 3, 2009

Hot Leg – Red Light Fever

hotlegredlightfeverDetails: 2009, Barbecue Rock, CD

The merits or otherwise of  Justin Hawkins seem to divide the rock fraternity however, as someone who appreciated both of the albums he delivered whilst leading The Darkness I’ve been waiting to see what direction his post-Darkness outfit would take.  The songs heard on various radio stations haven’t exactly been enticing, and I can definitely do without the image which seems purposely more outrageous than ever, but surely a man who’s first album was the soundtrack to a summer and who’s second was better than many would believe would turn out something of interest now he’s in sole control of the ship?

Well, its something of a yes, no and maybe from me. Appreciating that he’s has made some attempts to distance Hot Leg’s sound from that of his old band I none-the-less make no apologies in comparing this to The Darkness’ output, given that it’s the reason I have interest in “Hot Leg”, but in short this album just doesn’t consistently hit the spot like “Permission To Land” and probably leans a little too far for my liking towards the dodgy, chart oriented singles that marred the occasionally excellent “One Way Ticket To Hell… And Back”.

On the positive side though there are still flashes of brilliance such as the excellent “Trojan Guitar”.  A clever song that sells Hawkins’ songwriting talent through a series of styles, with more than a nod to Queen evident.  From a hint of Celtic jig, through quieter acoustic sections to over the top cod-operatic pieces good, and some good hard rock its one of those songs that really, only Hawkins does these days and on this occasion he does it extremely well.  Also standing out greatly for me is the later number “Prima Donna” which, like the old Darkness live opener “Bareback”, hints at some Quo-appreciation and also possesses a lyric that has a bit of an edge to it.  Of course, the falsetto vocals won’t be to everyone’s liking but in the right context, and not overdone, they are a part of what makes Hawkins and hence Hot Leg unique.

The negative side though are when those vocals, and the musical bells and whistles that seem to go with it, are simply overdone.  Track one, “Chickens” is one such number.  So over the top that the decent, AC/DC-ish riff of “You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore” that follows (a definite relation to “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” by the way) initially seems a better track than it really is.  The awful, far too over-busy “Gay In The 80’s” is another song that seems to exist to challenge your patience level and reinforce the “we’re more outrageous than The Darkness message”, whilst another poor, ill-conceived idea to also get the “miss” is that songs’ predecessor “Cocktails”.  Rating Hawkins as a very clever lyricist at times I can appreciate the British seaside postcard humour in songs like final number “Kissing In The Wind”, and indeed earlier career efforts like “Growing On Me” and “Holding My Own”.  But the man who celebrated getting “Bell End” into a Christmas song a few years back falls from funny to simply crass on “Cocktails” which seems merely an exercise in how many times the band can sing the word “cock”.  Maybe I’m just too old? 14 years olds will surely appreciate this?

Of the other tracks  “Whichever Way You Wanna Give It” is okay but surely wouldn’t have made it onto a b-side a few years back.  “Ashamed” is another decent song that again proves Hawkins’ capable of delivering a decent, message delivering lyric within a three minute slice potentially chart bothering pop-rock whilst the catchy “I’ve Met Jesus” is a bit of a grower I’ll admit… but I’m not sure for how long.  And that really sums up the album.  It’s got it’s moments, indeed a couple of really outstanding ones, but, I fear, a limited shelf-life.

Of the three albums that have featured the considerable talents of Justin Hawkins this rates the third best by some way.  Funnily enough that might ultimately weigh in his favour.  If this disappears as quickly as it should the pressure will be off and Hot Leg can build, unwatched by mainstream media and unhindered by expectations toward a better follow up.  One that consistently delivers to the levels Hawkins has proven capable of in the past.

Most reviews I’ve read are saying you’ll either love or hate “Hot Leg”.  On the evidence offered in “Red Light Fever”,  I’m still undecided…

Highlight: Prima Donna

Score: 2.5/5

rockofages

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Panther permalink*
    March 3, 2009 8:51 pm

    Hmmm. He’s honest, too. But missing the point a bit.

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