“Thunder” Rip It Up – CD REVIEW by Adam McCann
Record: EarMusic Records 2017
Thunder are a band that over the course of their careers have split up, reformed, disbanded and once again reformed. This time, it looks like Thunder are back for good and although this saying will haunt them forever; Thunder were in the right place at the wrong time, breaking it big in 1989/1990 was a bad time to hit the big time with their good-time Hard Rock, bluesy riffs and big hair. Just a few years earlier and Thunder would have been huge, but instead they got caught in the riptide of changing times.
These days, Thunder have come a million miles away from the late 80’s Hard Rock where they made their name, other than changing bassists a few times before settling on Chris Childs, Thunder have had the same stable line-up now for 21 years and this experience shows, not just in a live environment, but also on record. Since Thunder got together again in 2002, culminating in the Shooting at the Sun album, Thunder have changed their sound a little, that blues element is still there and if anything, it has been enhanced. However, Thunder can still tear it up when needs be or can kick back with a beautiful piano ballad and like a fine wine, Thunder have matured and it is no wonder that this nets the band the airplay on the Classic Rock radio stations that they deserve.
During Thunder’s second break, guitarist Luke Morley and bassist Chris Childs worked together in The Union with the wonderful blues voice of Pete Shoulder and this stripped, laid back feeling has obviously transposed its way into Thunder’s writing with Morley being the main man. That was then, it is now 2017 and Thunder have released their latest album, Rip It Up. There are no surprises as to why Rip It Up follows in the same vein as its predecessor Wonder Days, many of the songs are stylistically similar sounding with that more laid back, retro style groove which was stamped all over Wonder Days.
Don’t think for one minute though that Rip It Up is West Coast, Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, buy it for your dad, easy listening, as Thunder can still write a good old fashioned Hard Rocker with Danny Bowes’ pipes still as impressive as ever, which begs the question; is Bowes the most underrated Rock vocalist? The answer is yes. Pardon the pun though, but Thunder manage to rip it up several times across this album, from the title track, Shakedown and the obvious single, She Likes the Cocaine with its gleaming Pop style production. However, there are some beautiful ballads here and no one sings a tear jerking ballad like Thunder with the likes of Right from the Start and the album’s closing track There’s Always a Loser strategically placed about the album.
The main issue with Rip It Up itself is that every song has that overly familiar feel to it, like you’ve heard it somewhere before. Hardly surprising really, there are a lot of crossovers in the world of Rock, Pop and Heavy Metal, but with Rip It Up, it seems like Thunder have collated them all together. From the Celebration Day style riff to No One Gets Out Alive, to the Jean Genie groove of the title track itself, Rip It Up sets the precedent from the start with even the bass intro to In Another Life sounding like Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet. It isn’t a secret that Thunder are big fans of The Who with even the band covering tracks such as Pinball Wizard, but The Enemy Inside has that quick-fire Pete Townsend style chords that have very similar leanings towards Pinball Wizard and The Seeker. However, it isn’t just outside tracks where Thunder take their inspiration, they even look to their own catalogue. The Chosen One has a chorus which could easily be confused with Fade into the Sun whilst Shakedown has that simple clean bouncy riff equipped with a cowbell that is reminiscent of I Love You More Than Rock N’ Roll both from The Magnificent Seventh with There’s Always a Loser also sounding similarly to Watching Over You from the Bang! album.
All this aside, Rip It Up is actually an enjoyable album, it might be coupled with a crap album cover, but that is the worst thing about the album. Rip It Up does exactly what it sets out to do, deliver a good time through upbeat songs mixed with the more melancholic side showing that Thunder still have plenty to offer and it wouldn’t be surprising if Rip It Up was one of the best Hard Rock releases of this year. 8/10
Adam McCann / MHF Magazine