The Rifles frontman Joel Stoker releases his debut solo album `The Undertow` this month which reflects some of his experiences with anxiety and mental health issues, his overwhelming struggles with OCD dating back to childhood.

The album opens with ‘Walls Fall’ and it kind of strolls along with an occasional plucked string arrangement and is fairly philosophical with a nice guitar solo. A number that`s a sort of “never give up” anthem or paean. There`s some delightful brass tones throughout ‘My Own War’ which has a slight Americana feel and touches on life struggles.

‘Like I Love You’ is a reaffirmation of a deep love or appreciation of somebody close and becomes fairly haunting with whistling sprinkled throughout as it develops. We have a folk like texture to ‘I Go To Sleep’ as it wanders along with occasional fiddle tinges.

‘Can’t Stop The Tears’ have strings and a rhythmic drumbeat leading us in and reminded me a little of some of the subtler Dexy`s musings. In ‘Until I Find My Mind’ the opening felt as if we`d intruded on a church service before leaving and a strummed guitar and drum lead us along a thoughtful consideration. The track gains depth as instruments add to the tapestry as it evolves. It`s a rather deeply introspective examination with searching or pleading shared  in the vocal delivery.

‘Down At The Undertow’ almost has that upbeat Van Morrisson `Bright Side Of The Road` vibe and is delightfully soulful and upbeat. We have a meditation on mental health struggles but with a message of hope for fellow sufferers in the stripped back ‘The Valley.’ It does pick up a musical depth as it evolves.

‘Wave of Hope’ is a strummed `call to arms` and encourages us to have faith as every cloud has a silver lining. I found ‘Why Do We Care’ an instantly assessable earworm of a number. A tale of challenges that life throws at you and dealing with them.

We close out with ‘The Great Depression’ which is a contemplative piece with a cracking drumbeat, key tones, and vocal harmonies. A guitar solo breaks it up in the latter section and it becomes an almost a sing a long foot tapper which I have to admit reminded me a little of `Let My Love Open The Door` a track from Pete Townsend`s `Empty Glass` album from over forty years ago.

Although the subject matter on `The Undertow` can be a taboo topic, today`s artists have a more open-minded approach which i`m sure can influence their followers to open up address these life challenges. So, I have the upmost respect that Joel Stoker has opened up about his struggles and allows us into his deepest thoughts through his words and music. An enjoyable listen and an album that will provoke some self-examination, i`m sure.

Rating 8 / 10

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