It’s pretty surprising that a band like Thunder – one of the most prolific, talented, heard & heavy bands in UK, who often peaked up in the charts – never crosses Great Britain’s borders. Maybe this could be the right time, with their new, plane-inspired album, Please Remain Seated.
To call it “totally new” would be quite excessive. Please Remain Seated is a sort of greatest hits, instead: the tracks are from their whole career, which is thirty years long (even with 2002 hiatus). And, like a thirty aged person, it’s time to be mature and to sum up the life that seemed to fly so quickly.
Some bands, like Thunder itself, consider their music fluid, in the sense that it can be reworked, and can be changed, if you re-play it and re-register it from another point of view: like a small but sudden wave in a calm pond. And this was the force that lead Thunder, as it was told by the words of the frontman Danny Bowes:
We set ourselves three rules: work fast, don’t aim for perfection, and make it different to the original. Some songs fell together spontaneously, and some took a series of strange left turns before ending up in a place none of us predicted.
So, given this much needed introduction, let’s dive without parachute into the world of Please Remain Seated.
Thunder’s Please Remain Seated artwork and track listing (BMG), out January 19th 2019
01. Bigger Than Both Of Us
02. Future Train
03. Girl’s Going Out Of Her Head
04. I’m Dreaming Again
05. Fly On The Wall
06. Just Another Suicide
07. Empty City
08. Miracle Man
09. Blown Away
11. She’s So Fine
12. Low Life In High Places
You can clearly recognize the concept Bowes wanted to express with “work fast” as soon as you listen to Bigger Than Both of Us, Please Remain Seated opening track: sounds from recording studio, laughs, and a true sense of improvisation that seems so vintage, in this days of remixing, re-recording, and making weird tricks with the technology music can afford on. So, in a word: unplugged. The song, which was first released in Laughing on the Judgment Day (it was the distant 1992, the year I was born), and it wasn’t so bluesy: it was a typical hard rock power ballad. This new blues style is so fresh that it’s hard to believe it’s the same song at all, also because Bowes’ voice don’t seem to be aged at all.
Then, the Thunder airplane propose Future Train, in a unique – and pretty confusing, at first – multi-instruments sound, as there are tribal percussions that echoes so much of the first 00’ prog, and a very clear inspiration from Myles Kennedy last solo work, The Year of the Tiger. The original song was indeed rich of percussions, but they were hidden behind an aggressive acoustic guitar line first, then sormounted by an electric one, and we must admit that this piano-lead new inspiration makes the song much more moderne. If Future Train was gospelesque, we can say that Girl’s going out of her head is a true jazz-lounge track, whereas it was a typical hard rock song talking about girls.
Then, if you need a lot of american modern blues country and you missed so much Matching Mole sounds, I’m Dreaming again will suit for you. Because, also, we must admit: Thunder had always been able to write excellent, sorrowful, ballads. And I’m Dreaming Again is second only to Love Walked In, which comes from their far distant in the past first album, Back Street Symphony. The great bass line of Fly on The Wall, enriched with some vintage hammond organ effects, will show you how much Thunder rely on their great capability of songwriting, creating much simple but not flat songs that works well also in 2019.
The proposed re-working in an unplugged way didn’t always have excellent results, and this is the case of Just Another Suicide, which the new arrangments adds nothing. The following track, Empty City, was perfect as it was back in the 1992, a long and gloomy suite made up of wonderful guitar lines crossing with great Bowes’ voice. This slowed version don’t fit well with the post Apocalypse concept of the song, creating a sort of screech between music and topics. But the arrangment is technically unexceptionable as usual, showing how the original line up is made of some among the best musician hard rock has ever had.
Miracle man – no, not the Alan Moore and then Neil Gaiman comic – begins just like Bigger Than Both of Us, and the feeling of unplugged is overwhelming. This song, in its original LP – Bang!, 2008 – wasn’t such a hit, but now, with female backing vocals, a huge bass work, and this country, distant, so Crosbysh sound, gains so many points that we can consider it among the best tracks of Please Remain Seated. The melancholic Loser, made up of atmosferic pads and uptight voice, will bring tears to your eyes, and you will suffer with the boy talking to the girl in the song.
If there’s something special about Thunder, this old fashioned guys, is their bravery. They don’t fear to fail. They always aim to the best – and the best, for them, is to play whatever they like. I can imagine Matthews, Morley, Bowes, Childs and James arguing about how they could change She’s so Fine, in studio: and then, they simply decided to go back to the past. So, they registered an hammond driven song, whereas She’s so fine comes from their latest album, Rip it up, out in 2017. And this bluesy country but softly proggish sound stand up finely.
Here we are, there is only one song left: Low Life in High Places. There are emotional bells, there is a slow piano, diminished string chords, and a trumpet. A superb trumpet, played by Jason Mainwaring. And, while it was energic, back in 1992, now is a not religious hymn, in his very empathetic lyrics, describing the life of low, and poor people, lived on skyscrapers shadows. The surprising chorus of male voices that sings the refrain is a surplus of quality: and we couldn’t ask better, because Low Life in High Places will hopefully make Thunder gain new fans, new, young, people liking their music. Because of the wonderful Morley guitar solo, because of the feeling Bowes sings with.
Mama, tell your children not to go
Down to the city, where the desperate people go
And mama, don’t you let them stray
They won’t find, peace of mind in such a lonely place
A lyrics that lights up of a different shimmer in this dark age, where it seems people have forgotten their own humanity.
In conclusion, Please Remain Seated is an actual, additional, demostration of how big Thunder are. That that strike among the cloud still rocks. And we will keep on waiting Rip it Up sequel, while cuddling ourselves with this so enjoyable and unusual greatest hits.