I know the direction we are travelling in doesn’t look great, but if I never hear the phrase “lockdown album” or “livestream gig” again, I’d be happy.
The latter – and in fairness I only watched one – seemed devoid of atmosphere and the former, was by and large, an excuse to put stuff out that should never have seen the light of day (and wouldn’t under normal circumstances).
There were some exceptions and here’s one. “Red Brick City” is the debut (only?) album from Heavy Water. Seb and Biff Byford got together (and a public thanks to Seb for giving me his chair once when his Naked Six outfit opened for Tax The Heat in a venue that isn’t great for people with mobility issues) and decided to create something.
They roped in NS drummer Tom, and Dave Kemp of Wayward Sons provides some keyboard (and other stuff we’ll get to), with Biff playing bass and the younger Byford guitar. Where this scores – and why its so good, actually, is that none of them would quite fit into Naked Six’s repertoire and they damn sure won’t be played when Saxon next are able to bring us all together with denim and leather.
The first one here “Solution” is actually all you need to know about the record. Heavy, almost Soundgardenish groove, and the two vocals trading off. Byford snr still sounds like no one else, and the harmony trade off is just sublime.
Like it? Well, handy, then that there’s nine more where that came from. There’s a darkness – a bleakness perhaps reflecting the times – about some of them, not least “Turn To Black” which lurks menacingly, while there’s something big and just a little primal about “Red Brick City” the one they chose as the single.
Capable of some moments of real tenderness, there’s something of a grandiosity about the organ of “Tree In The Wind”. A superb example of the desire to take chances and push the envelope that this record so amply displays. Indeed, that the thunderous “Revolution”, perhaps the counterbalance rollicking with all the urgency of the Foos, follows, gives you the full scope of the soundscape here.
The press release that came with this, was at pains to call this “blues baked” and that’s cool – we all hear things differently, after all – but not for me. “Personal Issue Number 1” has more to do, to these ears anyway, with Stereophonics than it does with anything else and if “Medicine Man” is the one that you would most likely hear in a Naked Six set, then it swaggers in with a huge amount of confidence about itself, that’s for sure.
Pretty much everywhere you look here there’s something you didn’t expect. I’ve heard a podcast with Biff where he spoke about his love for The Beatles, and that type of late 60s, floating psychedelic vibe is shot through “Follow This Moment” – and even, in all candour, if that type of thing doesn’t usually do much for me, then the sax solo from Kemp takes this to another level.
That blues thing is most to the fore on the sunkissed “Now I’m Home” and the big ol’ funky groove of “Faith” – and perhaps apt, given the fact that this almost single-handedly restored mine in “lockdown” albums – and kudos again to Kemp for the organ here.
“Heavy Water” then, more explosive than you might have imagined, but almost certainly nothing like you thought.