Considering John Robb’s previous employment history (Kerrang, Melody Maker, Stone Roses biographer) you’d think he’d have used the divine judgment of the music journalist to needle through the hay of popular music, finding that elusive niche which comes about every so often. With his baby Goldblade one can’t exactly say Robb has struck gold.
Although it is the critic’s job to sort the wheat from the chaff, critics of the critic often point out that one isn’t in a position to criticise until they have taken part in or had some experience of the art form they are reviewing. If this was the barometer for work in the industry, we’d all be reading book reviews.
Robb is one of the few exceptions who would qualify for the job of music critic. Now rock journalists fronting their own bands are notoriously hit and miss affairs, as Gay Dad and Marilyn Manson can testify.
Assuming the alter-ego Brother Robb, Robb returns with Goldblade for their fourth outing. It’s a sharper affair of much of the same punk, glam and rockabilly they’ve flown the flag for over the past decade.
Rebel Songs kicks off in nominally dirty mode for Psycho, very similar it must be said, to the Misfits‘ American Psycho.
Much of the album resides in punk’s most fertile ground: scaggy vocals, crusading fretwork, bumbly bass work. As the title indicates, this offering is much more political than before. Try not to laugh when you pan down those song titles because, brothers and sisters, this is all from the heart. Or so Goldblade say.
Robb’s lyrics labour posture and colloquialisms found on a million punk records since the ’70s. Still, he has some interesting observations (the royals are so rich and German!).
Along with a fascination with history – Rebel Songs cris-crosses socio-political references from the ancient Rome, medieval times and Victorian England.
Although Everything is Porn begins crudely (“We poison the earth with filth and Greed!/Antiseptic, deodorant lives/Your plastic face looks so fake”), it transpires to be one of the album’s standout songs, and indeed an environmentalist’s anthem. Though you’re more likely to find it playing at an ALF meeting than a Green Peace one.
It’s at this point the album dips into a mush of been there, heard that punk via the tune of Rancid who bow like Japanese businessmen to the CEOs, The Clash.
Government Lies is the only real moment of departure with its ska leanings before more of the polemic. And that’s before we get to War (Not in My Name) and Sick World.
Rebel songs these may be for the times we live in, but revolutionary they aren’t. Goldblade offer a good short break from what’s hip and new. It is curious that Robb continues with Goldblade. He is no fool and knows the ins and outs of the music industry. But who are we to pontificate on what is and isn’t?