As the man himself might say: “‘ello ‘ello, ‘ello what’s all this.” (he actually does say that on one of the tracks here).

It, ladies and gents, is the the follow up to “Defiance” – one of the best albums of last year.

It’s a good job I read my review for the album before writing this one, because I was going to start and end it in the same way: “Defiance” was brilliant and I said this about it: “Never mind the guests, “Defiance Part 1” is one of the album’s of the year because its an Ian Hunter record and he’s a genius.”

He is. He really, really is.

“Defiance Part 2: Fiction” is a very similar record, actually. Anyone who’s ever been anyone (and Brian May of Q***n) joins him – which is fine, because who wouldn’t get some of the most famous people on the planet to join them if they could? – but again, this is an Ian Hunter album, and its wonderful solely because of that.

“People” – Joe Elliott is on this one and Rick Nielsen has a go at the guitar solo – spits and rages about PR and spin. “It’s the gospel according to, whichever channel you’re listening to” is its first line and thus the first line on the album, and what that means is simple: Ian Hunter and his Rant Band are back and ready to go.

The music is very glam rock, deliberately 70s, proper Mott stuff. Good. It should be.

The title track is a beauty, ELO would be proud of it, but its one of the few with no guests beyond The Rant Band, the same cannot be said for “The 3rd Rail”. Jeff Beck playing the guitar gives it a frisson, Johnny Depp is here too, but there’s a touch of Dylan about it. The older and more irascible he gets (on this one he talks about “650 reasons to hate” and maybe he means Westminster?) the more he sounds like Dylan it seems to me.

This album’s shining gem, though is the visceral attack on modern music. “This Ain’t Rock N Roll” – on which Phil Collen plays some wonderful guitar – contains this line: “They’re coming all over from North and South – and some came out of the horses mouth”. So yeah, take that. And its rock n roll at its purest.

“Precious” not only has the aforementioned May, but also Taylor Hawkins, and a hell of a chorus, “Weed” doesn’t like the modern world much and what basically amounts to Stone Temple Pilots move into a bit of country (the slide guitar is utter class), while Hawkins and most of Cheap Trick are back for the bass heavy, oppressive brilliance of “Kettle Of Fish.”

“What Would I Do Without You” is special, because it’s the first duet of Hunter’s career, and because he’s Ian Hunter he’s roped in Lucinda Williams and she sounds incredible. As is Waddy Watchel’s guitar on “Everybody’s Crazy But Me” (from where the ‘ello ‘ello ‘ello… comes from). “Am I the last man standing, seriously?” he asks. And it feels like this level of authenticity might be unique to him at this point.

Amongst the guests on the last one are Williams, Billy Bob Thornton and Benmont Tench, and it means “Hope” is Premier League level Americana. But it does offer the light at the end of the tunnel, that even in 2024, things can get better.

Plus, as long as music this good is being made, then the world cannot be all bad. It can’t be.

Rock n roll doesn’t need saving, whatever anyone says, but it does come to something when an man who is 85 in June has made the best rock n roll album so far this year.

All the young dudes need to step up, frankly.

Rating 9.5/10

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