STILL BELIEVE IN ROCK AND ROLL
Released on March 20, 2020 (eOne)
Perception is everything. When certain bands release their latest albums, my expectations are sky high and those records are scrutinized from top to bottom. Back in the mid ’80s, I had high expectations for just about every band’s next album since most groups released some of their best records during that time span. After being treated to absolutely spectacular albums from Mötley Crüe (with 1983’s Shout At The Devil), Van Halen (with 1984), W.A.S.P. (with 1984’s W.A.S.P.), Dokken (with 1984’s Tooth And Nail), Ratt (with 1984’s Out of The Cellar), Twisted Sister (with 1984’s Stay Hungry), Judas Priest (with 1984’s Defenders of The Faith) and Iron Maiden (with 1984’s Powerslave), my expectations were sky high — and perhaps unrealistic — for each of those bands’ next releases but alas, most of those groups fell quite short with their subsequent records. Only Ratt (with 1985’s Invasion of Your Privacy), Dokken (with 1985’s Under Lock And Key) and W.A.S.P. (with 1985’s The Last Command) were able to live up to my lofty expectations set from their previous albums.
Now, with over 35 years of listening to heavy metal music under my belt, I now know that most bands only have a few really good albums in them and most of the time, you end up feeling disappointed hearing a new studio album that simply does not measure up to what you were hoping to hear. There are however a few exceptions with a handful of “newer” bands for which my expectations remain sky high for each new release because they have for the most part delivered one quality album after another for a number of years now. This short list consists of Steel Panther, Airbourne, Sister Sin and The Wild!. Of course, the first two of those four bands released rather disappointing albums last year compared to their previous outputs but that’s a discussion for another day. In the case of The Wild!, their debut EP GxDxWxB and their debut full-length album Wild At Heart both finished at #2 on the Sleaze Roxx‘s year-end best albums chart, respectively in 2015 and 2017. Their debut EP also finished at #8 on the Sleaze Roxx’s Top 12 Albums of The Decade (2010-2019). To say that my expectations for their new offering were “sky high” might even be an understatement.
Funny enough, I wasn’t blown away by The Wild!‘s first single “Playing With Fire” which came out back in September 2019. It was a good tune but it didn’t blow me away like The Wild!‘s first single “Ready To Roll” from their debut full-length album Wild At Heart back in 2017. Nevertheless, I try to never judge a record on the strength of one single and especially not The Wild! whom I consider to deliver quality from start to finish on their albums. A couple of months later, I got the opportunity to see The Wild! play a headlining set in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada and they played a couple of new tracks at that time. “Goin’ To Hell” made a lasting impression on me after just one listen to the song and my expectations were back to “sky high” for the band’s upcoming studio album.
I think part of the reason why The Wild!‘s albums are so good is because the band’s leader Dylan Villain seems to be a real perfectionist. For instance, he actually wrote The Wild!‘s latest album a couple of times and even scrapped half of the record that he recorded at one point. Villain is definitely the focal point in the band given that he wrote all of the songs on the new album except for the track “Nothin’ Good Comes Easy” co-written with Keith Nelson. As Villain explained in an interview with BraveWords earlier this year, he felt a lot riding on this record and the pressure actually got to him at one point. Although The Wild! present themselves as a “gang”, make no mistake about it, it’s Villain‘s baby. Perhaps the most telling sign is that the band members do not appear listed anywhere in the CD booklet. I am not sure if that was intentional or simply an oversight but it’s kind of odd for long-time bassist Boozus, rhythm guitarist The Kid and new drummer Crash Anderson to not be mentioned anywhere. Did they even play on the album?
Even though Villain indicated in his interview with BraveWords that the opening track “Bad News” set the tone for the entire record, I find that’s it’s probably one of the weakest tracks on the album. That being said, it’s almost unfair to use the word “weakest” for The Wild!‘s latest offering because the album rocks from start to finish, and especially from tracks number two to nine. I just find the simpler, early Joan Jett & The Blackhearts era, opening track “Bad News” not quite as strong as the rest of the rockers on Still Believe In Rock And Roll. The album closer “Gasoline” is a slower affair and it seems a bit of an experiment for The Wild! with some organ playing and female background vocals. While it’s not a bad way to end the album and it does slowly build up, I think that it could have easily been left off the record.
Aside from those two songs, I have to say that I really, really like the tracks on Still Believe In Rock And Roll. The Wild! deliver exactly what I was hoping to hear from them. There are some great sing along moments such as on “Crazy (For You)” and “King of This Town” with the “Oooh oooh” parts and both of those songs are tailor made to be played live. “Nothin’ Good Comes Easy” is one of the best tracks. It’s an up tempo rocker where Villain‘s vocals really seem to come out in a strong manner. It’s almost impossible not to like the song. “High Speed” feels like, well a high speed chase, and reminds me of some of the wild and crazy tracks off The Wild!‘s debut EP GxDxWxB where caution was thrown to the wind. The chorus portion for the title track for Still Believe In Rock And Roll is chock-full of melody and always a highlight each time that I hear it. Although “Playing With Fire” didn’t knock me over when I first heard it last fall, it fits really well on the record Still Believe In Rock And Roll and has turned out to be one of my favourites on the record. “Young Rebels” is yet another great rocker and “Goin’ To Hell” is like the icing on the cake. The Wild! should have just ended the record after that stellar track, which boasts some killer guitar work from presumably Villain.
There are not many bands that can deliver one great record, let alone two, and very few can deliver three great ones. Not only have The Wild! [over] delivered with their first three records but they’ve done so by releasing three great albums in a row! The Wild! dedicated their latest album to anyone who still believes in rock and roll music. With a strong record like Still Believe In Rock And Roll, it’s almost impossible not to think that rock n’ roll will one day be back at the forefront of the music world. Not only have The Wild! delivered a real classic rock n’ roll record, they have also been able to meet and just maybe even exceed my very high expectations for their album. Is this the record of the year? I think it’s definitely the benchmark on which album will finish at the top of the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2020.
01. Bad News
02. Crazy (for You)
03. Nothing Good Comes Easy
04. High Speed
05. King of This Town
06. Still Believe In Rock And Roll
07. Playing With Fire
08. Young Rebels
09. Goin’ To Hell
Dylan Villain – vocals, guitar
Boozus – bass, vocals
The Kid – guitar, vocals
Crash Anderson – drums
Strange Daddy – car (1), siren (4), match (7)
Moto Concept – motorcycle (4)
Kandace Lindsey – background vocals (10)
Ijeoma Njaka – background vocals (10)
Darryl Havers – organ and strings (10)
Produced by Mike Fraser and Dylan Villain
Recorded, engineered and mixed by Mike Fraser
Mastered by Maor Appelbaum
Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, May 2020
The Wild!‘s “King of This Town” (Live at SW Warehouse) video:
The Wild!‘s “Playing With Fire” video: