Some reviews are easier than others. This is one of the easiest.
It all comes down to two things. First: “this one’s for you, we’ll make you proud”. And second: a simple “go on!” before the guitar solo on the brilliant “Secret Smile” – a song early on in this.
I’ll explain. The first is a key line on the title track. The second is an exclamation of sheer exuberance in “I’m Your Fool”. And both, in their own ways are all you need to know about the record.
“Guardians Of The Legacy” is aptly named. The first Eddie And The Hot Rods record for 16 years, but even more crucially, it’s the first without Barrie Masters. The band’s frontman tragically died in 2019 (I’d seen them a couple of times that summer supporting SLF, the second time Barrie had been unable to play), so that line has an added poignancy.
My own love of EATHR had begun in 1994, before I even knew who they were. I’ll explain that too.
I love a band called The Almighty. On their “Wrench” single, they’d got a cover of “Do Anything You Wanna Do”. Life was different then, everything wasn’t available in seconds, so at 18 I had to work to find out about this wonderful thing I’d heard. It was the start of a lot of the tastes I have now, that song, so I was probably not the only one who was hoping that they’d make me proud too, with this record.
So lets get it said now and save the usual cliff-hanger of a conclusion: however good you wanted “Guardians Of The Legacy” to be, the reality is better.
This is rock n roll. It’s as pure and simple as that. A celebration of everything you love about it, all the band loves about it too, and every single one of these songs has a hook so thick you could hang your big winter coat on the damn thing.
Now with Ian “Dipster” Dean singing (as he had on that show that Barrie couldn’t make) there’s one link to the past, drummer Simon Bowley is the nephew of original drummer Ian Nichol, but it doesn’t actually matter who’s in the band in truth. Just listen to the opening of “Paradise” and its filthy harmonica, and you will smile. You can’t help it. There’s even a nod to “….Wanna Do” here just for grins.
Only the band know the real truth, but this sounds like they had fun. “Secret Smile” definitely isn’t a Semisonic cover, but Richard Holgarth (who also produces here) rips a solo out of his back pocket, as if it’s the easiest thing on the planet.
Everywhere you look there’s a highlight. The slide guitar on “I’m Your Fool”, the more mid-paced “She’s The One (like the title track, its written by new bassist Mic Stoner) or the thunderous “Someone Like You” all qualify – indeed anyone who can’t cope with the loss of the Quireboys needs to get to the latter and see what they’d be like if they had been fed a diet of punk instead of The Faces.
Writing songs this catchy can’t be easy, but my goodness they make it seem like anyone could do it. “Heritage” (key line: “I am an ordinary guy, still got a twinkle in my eye”) puts itself front and centre of keeping the flame alive, and its hard to argue with the simple premise of “When All Else Is Gone There’s Nothing Left But This Song”. Music, you imagine has been the salvation of everyone here in some way.
“Poor Old Me” is Chuck Berry if he was English, and if tongues are never far from cheeks throughout, then especially here. The piano is a nice touch, and you’re straight into the spit and sawdust bar with beer flowing. And “English” is a good word for it all, actually. Even the Allman Brothers twin guitars of “Shakedown” are played though some British steel, and you can imagine when they play these songs live, then “Without You We Are No One” gets aired, the symbolism is not lost and the harmony of the chorus shines anyway.
Holgarth’s riff on “New Frontier” speaks volumes – literally given that it was made to be played loud, but its tough not to think of bands like Mott The Hoople as it is delivered.
And, at the risk of being a little too on the nose, it is perfect that this new frontier, as it were, ends like this. Because what Eddie And The Hot Rods have done so well on “Guardians Of The Legacy” is open up this new chapter by not being slaves to the past, but making a record that anyone who loved the band will absolutely adore. Legacies are funny things, I guess, but Eddie And The Hot Rods 2023 version have just added to theirs.