Zokusho

REVIEW: The Defiants – Zokusho (2019)

THE DEFIANTS – Zokusho (2019 Frontiers)

The Defiants:  Paul Laine, Bruno Ravel and Rob Marcello.  Call ’em what you like.  A side project of Danger Danger, a power-pop trio, whatever you want.  There’s nothing wrong with any of that.  Just be sure to listen, because in 2019’s Zokusho, the Defiants created one of the best albums of the year.  It is an intensely catchy, varied, well-executed album that sticks to the brain like peanut butter.  The production is slick and pounding.

“Love is the Killer” opens the album in grand fashion.  It’s a big dramatic pop rock song with modern production, but hooks rooted in 80s classic rock.  Huge chorus, which Paul Laine gets to wrap his able pipes around with ease.  A ripping solo takes a little extra time, proving this isn’t simply a pop band, but one of talented players doing what they want.  And even though “Love is the Killer” is a fine opener, it’s not even close to best track on the album.

Heavy mid-tempo “Standing on the Edge” cranks up the tension.  The chorus absolutely kills — unforgettable.  Until this point though, the album’s edges were dark-tinged.  “Hollywood in Headlights” is the first celebratory rock song, perfect for the summer cruising season.  There’s a nice crunchy guitar riff that goes with it.  A catchy, perfectly written rock classic.  But like a sequel, “Fallin’ For You” continues the good time vibes where they left off.  Unlike a sequel, it’s just as good if not better.  It’s faster and even more upbeat, with irresistible singalong vocals, and a stunning solo.

A Def Leppard vibe inhabits “Hold On Tonight”, with that kind of picked Phil Collen guitar hook.  A power ballad with plenty of power indeed.  Leppard’s “Stand Up” but cranked up?  Something like that at least.  But that’s it for sentimentality for the moment.  “Allnighter” is a party rock pounder.  Definitely something of a rallying cry for those about to hit the town.  Still with the hooks though.  I don’t think Paul Laine knows how to write a song without hooks.

“U X’d My Heart” is not the finest song title ever composed (it means “You Crossed My Heart”), but the classy ballad defies its title.  Delicate picking followed by crunching guitars create a vital sounding rock ballad.  It’s quickly followed by “It Goes Fast”, with progressive vibes & keys guiding the way to outer space.  Another killer song.

Track nine, “Stay”, goes upbeat again, fast and overflowing with catchy components.  There’s a sudden key change towards the end that’s a little jarring but that’s the worst thing I can say about it.  Following that is a spacey, Journey-like tune intro to a tune called “Alive”.  Once more the hooks are front and center, as the guitar goes Holidays in Eden-era Marillion.  That’s before it explodes in a massive chorus.

The final track is “Drink Up!” and it’s obviously the party rock closer, with just a hint of country twang via Laine.  Pure fun and nothing more.  Nothing wrong with that.

If you like melodic hard rock with punch and plenty of production, the Defiants deliver.  Get some Sokusho.

5/5 stars

 

#899: Gathering

RECORD STORE TALES #899:  Gathering

It was a beautiful day today.  In the afternoon I got the ol’ laptop dusted off, and brought it out onto the patio to listen to some tunes and watch some YouTube.  The laptop is at least a decade old, probably older, and has served me well as my travelling machine.  Today, it could barely do two things at once.  Obviously it will not serve me well for live streaming this summer at the lake.  It did a stand-up job last year, with Streamyard and video editing.  This year it simply will not cut the tomatoes so I pulled the trigger on a new HP.  I didn’t want to go down in screen size so I ordered a 17.3″.  I always get nervous when buying a new computer, and I’ve never bought HP before.  I’m excited though.  Whatever happens, it cannot be worse than a decade-old Acer.  It could be here as early as Tuesday.  Wish me luck — this summer’s future LeBrain Train episodes will depend on this laptop!  Meanwhile the old one will be brought to Sausagefest — if there will be such a thing this summer.

The laptop is delivering by Purolator, which is totally safe.  Amazon unfortunately is not.  Their couriers leave the parcel at the door and that’s that.  Because there is so much theft of Amazon parcels in these parts, for the last six months or so, I have been having everything sent to my mom and dad’s address.  I am still working from the office and they are home all the time.  Jen has appointments that usually has her out of the house when Amazon come knocking.  As a result, I have to pick up my parcels from them about once a week.  And, according to Ontario’s current regulations, having an outdoor socially distanced visit with them is currently illegal.

“Hey, would you guys like to come out back for an illegal visit?” asked my mom.

“Sure,” I shrugged.

We’ve all been vaccinated with the first shot and are at 50% immunity.  We distanced.  Well, my dad got a little close as he sometimes does.  But it was nice.  Something almost normal.  I would like to go down into the basement and look for some of my old sketches from when I was a kid, but we aren’t taking any chances.  We stayed out.  Doug Ford can suck it.

Ironically, one of the things I was picking up was a cheap pair of computer speakers.  Every time Doug Ford goes live on TV to open his big mouth, I can’t hear him.  It’s too quiet.  Annoying.  So I ordered some cheap Amazon branded speakers so I can actually listen next time he opens his big yap.  And they’re my speakers, so if I want to use them for my new laptop, I’m good there too.

Some music also arrived.  We will be interviewing Paul Laine soon on the LeBrain Train, so I grabbed his Zokusho album by the Defiants.  Looking forward to that.  In a previous order, I received Long Distance Voyager by the Moody Blues.  Uncle Meat told us that it was his dad’s favourite album, and he would love if we listened to it or even reviewed it.  So I listened to it, loved it, and ordered a CD so I can listen properly for review.  I’m happy to do that for him.

I have also completed my set of Whitesnakes Red, White & Blue trilogy.  In hand are the recent compilation CDs The Rock Album, The Love Album, and The Blues Album.  All tracks have been remixed and updated, while unreleased songs are also included.  John Snow over at 2loud2oldmusic did a fantastic job of reviewing them all.  The Blues Album came from Encore while the other two are Amazons.

We talked current events, we talked family matters, we had a few laughs.  All is well, more or less.  This is the first pandemic for everyone present.  In the five stages of grieving, I think my mom is at the anger stage.  Last week on the phone, when I told her that us visiting would be against the rules, she said “I don’t give a damn about the rules!”  I don’t know the last time I heard her that angry!  Let’s face it, we the people of Ontario have been getting jerked around.  She has a lot to be mad about.  I love my mom.

My dad, on the other hand, decided to watch a documentary about Ozzy Osbourne on A&E.  Excitedly, he told me all about his history with Black Sabbath and as a solo artist.  “He had a lot of success on his own, when no one thought he would!” he explained to me.  But it wasn’t easy for the Ozzman either.  My dad told me all about Ozzy’s son Jack, and the role that Sharon played in his success.  It was one of those moments you cherish.  I love my dad.

My mom also loved The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which concluded on Friday.  We talked about Sam and the new Captain America.  To my dad, there is only one Captain America and it’s not Sam Wilson or Steve Rogers.  It’s someone I’ve never heard of — Grant Gardner, district attorney and the 1944 version of Cap that he grew up with.  He has no interest in the new Cap, while my mom was really drawn into the storyline.  Hopefully next time we visit illegally, my mom will have seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier which I told her to watch next.

I realize I have incriminated myself and my family with this story, and to that I say:  oh well.  We were safe and respectful of common sense.   When this pandemic eventually ends — and history has shown that eventually it will — I will have these chapters as a document of the weirdest times of our lives.  And that has more value than a fine.