(4 / 5)
Non-bland listen-ability is a tough thing to achieve – but “Americanized”, the latest album by top UK session guitarist Chester Kamen and his band The Loves, is certainly that.
Mature UK rock, avoiding bloated classic rock. A tasteful and subtle amalgamation of a lot of the leaner stuff that came in the eighties and nineties.
Pleasingly mature in that it lacks the edge of aggression in execution that a younger band might find hard to resist, but doesn’t suffer in the least bit because of it.
Passion, focus and commitment are there, but there’s the paradoxically laid back and settled grooving performances that hint at the experience accrued during Kamen’s lengthy career.
Complimented by the pleasingly warm production sound. Top this off with very cool and engaging off-hand vocals from Michael Cahill, and we have a simmering, very “moreish” album – consistent in quality from beginning to end.
“Americanized” is the fifth album from Kamen and the Loves, produced by drummer Steve Monti. Recorded at Monti’s home studio and mixed by Cenzo Townshend in Suffolk.
The dozen songs tunes were written by Kamen and Cahill. There’s one bonus track of a radio edit of the title cut, making 13 tracks.
Guitar slinger for hire, Chester Kamen has played with many big name artists, including David Gilmour, Bryan Ferry (including his Live Aid appearance), Paul McCartney, Roger Waters, Massive Attack and Madonna.
Steve Monti also has a decent pedigree, with a decade on the drum stool for The Blockheads and work with The Jesus and Mary Chain, Wilko Johnson, The Cocteau Twins and Gary Numan. The two music veterans joined by Cahill on vocals/guitar and Sam Harley on bass.
Through the politically charged title track and lead single “Americanized”, (which includes the clever lyrical line, “I thought we were only getting high, but we were getting Americanized….”) – Twangy Americana meets Blur, with a very-Damon Albarn-style vocal delivery – to the rocking and strutting “Fine Lines” and the hip yet maudlin “That Kind Of Love….
The band really engage with accomplished, detailed and well thought out work. A lot of credit must go to drummer Monti for the accomplished weight and groove he adds to the tracks.
Jangly guitars aplenty and a slight punk vocal on the brash; almost 60s British invasion pop opener, “King Of What Remains”.
“Do What Your Mama Told Ya”, has a “Can’t Explain” by The Who core riff, and in the Dr Feelgood pub rock vibe, without the aggressive Lee Brilleaux vocal approach.
“Dream Heart” has a reggae tinge and throws back to The Clash and The Stranglers, especially on the bass line. As does the punk/ska cut, “It Gets Harder.
A lot of the indie/punk/UK rock of this sort was once predominantly a young man’s game and as such the ideas – both vocally and instrumental – could be done a disservice by shaky, inexperienced execution and overt youthful aggression. Often topped off with poor production.
Part of the youthful counter culture charm maybe, but at the same time some of it gets harder to listen to over time. “Americanized” excels in all areas, as it enhances the possibilities of this music with age and experience.
You will probably never have heard of them. Your friends will probably never have heard of them. But I recommend you get in on the best kept secret, and get yourselves Americanized, pronto!
By Max Robertson
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’