HEAD OFF - The Hellacopters (Psychout/Shock)
So what that it's an album full of covers. It's by accident rather than design and if you're hung up on it, you can read how it came about here. All I know is that the farewell album for the Hellacopters is crammed so full of energy and melody that I'm left slack-jawed and glaze-eyed, wondering why in fuck's name they're not sticking around longer.
The choice of tunes is outstanding. Most are from like-minded rockers like the Sewergrooves spin-off The Royal Cream, New Bomb Turks, Gaza Strippers, the Maharajahs, The Humpers and the Demons. There's a lesser-known BellRays number ("Making Up For Lost Time" from the under-appreciated "The Red, White And Black" album) and one from Dead Moon ("Rescue").
The Australian neck of the woods is well-represented by Asteroid B612's "I Don't Know About Girls" and the Powder Monkeys' "Straight Until Morning".
There's an obvious love for all these songs and the Copters aren't reluctant to mix them up. For example they're putting fuel injectors and a turbocharger into "Rescue".
On the other hand, they wisely don't trying to top Tim Hemensley's vocal on the Powder Monkeys cover, which also provides Nicke Royale's moment of guitar histrionics. The guy's a great player but sometimes puts bombast front-and-centre.
Endless soloing is the exception rather than the rule; the Hellacopters really have become a "songs" band that's unafraid to play up the strengths of a good tune rather than run roughshod over the top all the time. Maybe in some critical circles (and in the "pot of gold" American market) the 'Copters played the price for exploring their influences in public. They're a better, more mature band for the experience - and probably had a lot of fun.
The rumours that this album was going so far back-to-basics as to echo "Supershitty To The Max" aren't true, so if you're hoping for a re-run you're going to be disappointed. This is a fuller, richer sound than that - maybe not as overtly commercial as "Rock And Roll Is Dead" - but still broadly appealing.
It rocks righteously and no more so than on the single, "In The Sign Of The Octopus" by fellow Swedes The Robots. That the songs the Hellacopters are covering won't get a run on mainstream radio in this or their original form is criminal.
There's one more Aussie track they recorded that's not here; a ripping cover of the late, great Yes-Men's "Acid Reign" which you can buy on iTunes here.
The one criticism is that the band perversely chose not to flesh out the cover booklet with notes that sing the praises of the bands from which they've paid homage. For that, you'll have to consult the Internerd, which probably isn't too high a price to pay. - The Barman
ROCK AND ROLL IS DEAD - The Hellacopters (Psychout Records/Universal)
It's not dead, of course, as much as the twin evils of Blandness and Apathy try to kill it. The title's entirely ironic. The Hellacopters declare rock and roll dead but their future direction is very much alive. This is a tremendous album, maybe their best.
Down the years, I'm haven't been the biggest fan of the 'Copters. I've owned a few of their albums and dipped into most of the rest. There seemed to be a lot of guitar solos looking for a song, and the bottom end that should've provided a groove (the "roll" in rock and roll) was all too often AWOL in the mix. Though the playing was undeniably good and their choice of collaborators often impeccable (Scott Morgan, for one - more on that later), there was a sense that these Swedes were stylistic whores, jumping from lo-fi punk to Motor City ramalamama to Southern-fried rock, and changing direction like most people change underwear (Note on personal hygeine: That'd be once a day, unless you have real issues).
Truth be known, the Hellacopters were probably growing up in public and showing their influences as they were being absorbed. They just happened to be a band whose fashion accessory was hearts on sleeves. You have to give them (read: mainman Nick Royale) credit for being able to roll with the inevitable critical punches that follow.
It would be easy to say that "Rock and Roll is Dead" is where those influences have not just been taken on board but built upon. This is probably the best meeting of Detroit power/soul and Chuck Berry-inflected pop hooks in a long time. This is the most souful I've heard the Copters sound, and they've maintain (and maybe enhanced) their power. So "screw you" to that reviewer who said they'd turned into Boston.
"Rock and Roll Is Dead" manages to make compromises to mainstream reception without polishing things so shiny you can see your face in it. The guitar tones are clean but the bottom end amply loud and tough. The hooks (and there are lots of 'em) stick out. "Everything Is On TV", maybe the most commercial song here (and the obvious single). Power and melody.
There's a doff of the "A True Testimonial" baseball cap to Mr Berry with the opening guitar lick of the lead-off track "Before the Fall" that a less brave band would have excised. If they were dedicated followers of fashions, that sort of thing isn't fashionable these days. But rock and roll moves in neatly circular ways. Consider the following:
There's soul at the heart of this record and it's be convenient to lay the blame at the feet of The Solution, the Motown-meets-Memphis, Sweden-based big band piloted by Nick Royale and Scott Morgan. If that band gave Scott Morgan a commercial breakthrough (hey - a Swedish hit album and hi-rotation on European MTV is no small beer) then the re-defining of the Hellacopters' own turf with a record this good this seems a neat by-product. I think "Monkeyboy" might have even been destined for The Solution's set list at one stage but "Leave It Alone" and its girl vocals accompaniment also would have worked a treat.
There's one high octane neck-breaker ("Bring It On Home") but most of these are mid-tempo tuneful work-outs without metal trappings. The 'Copters sound like they had a great time recording this and "I'm in the Band" is positively playful.
Maybe Nick says it best - about the Hellacopters or this whole rock and roll thing - in "Nothing Terribly New". I'm not likely to be around at rock and roll's funeral but it's not going anywhere in a hurry while people breath life into its lungs with albums like this. - The Barman
BY THE GRACE OF GOD - The Hellacopters (Universal)
I know this group has been accused of ripping off styles and riffs from other bands but I have to say that after seeing 'em twice live I have started to really like 'em. With 60,000-plus sales on their last album, "High Visibility", it seems the Copters are on the move up, big time.
Thirteen tracks in all on this one and punters won't be disappointed. "By The Grace Of God" was the first single taken from the album but for me it was the second single, "Carry Me Home", that got to me first. From the very outset the guitar riff just hits the spot and follow that up with a solo which, for me, is a little "Lynyrd Skynyrd" with a twin lead-guitar break and you can't go far wrong.
Another gem is "Go Easy Now" where you could think that Chuck Berry meets the Blue Oyster Cult (but then again that's only my opinion and I am sure everyone will have their own).
Strangely enough the CD cover comes in three different colours. All have the cloud and lightning bolt but the two others come with a white background or red. Don't be fooled into buying them all (I only bought two), thinking there might be hidden bonus tracks in each, 'cause there isn't.
One other thing to mention is the group is now ( it's been a little while) with Universal Music and not White Jazz. With hundreds of concerts under their belts it seems this group is going places so if you ever get a chance to catch 'em live or to buy the CD go right ahead. You won't regret it. - Greg "Birdman" Bowen
CREAM OF THE CRAP VOLUME 1 - The Hellacopter (Polar/Universal)
Killer kick ass comp of early and rare non album tracks from our favorite Swedes. I fuckin' love the 'Copters.
Ever since I saw 'em play with the Hunchbacks at the Sands (in Sydney Australia) back in '98,when they walked on stage and kicked off with "Gimme Shelter", there was a feeling that they were very cool. True, they get pretty hyped - or were pretty hyped- but that aside, these fuckers play hard and fast, kick ass rock 'n' roll harder and faster than a lot of fuckers.
I think the nature of 7" releases makes for a raucous medium excellently exploited here by the 'Copters. The first single, "Killing Allan", is here and surprisingly reminded me of Nirvana's "Negative Creep". They also blast up a version of "Television Addict" (originally by a pre-Hoodoo Gurus Dave Faulkner band, the Victims.) The Stones and The Ig also get a look in on these 18 tracks, but it's the originals like "Crimson Ballroom", "Misanthropic High", "Heart Of The Matter" and the impossibly rock 'n' roll "Tilt City" that go to show the guys always get the job done.
Energy to burn, fearsome playing, and guys you could talk to after a show. Just get this and turn it up !! - Ashley "Oz Rock" Thomson
BACK TO THE REVIEWS PAGE
BACK TO THE BAR