Five Points Gang – Wanted: Album Review

Multinational retro-blues-rockers with a modernist twist present their scorching studio debut.

Release Date: 24th September 2021

Label: Lunaria Records

Formats: CD / Download

Afficianados of the blues must get tired as every flicker of the thermostat getting greeted as a a revival; blues has had possibly more hailed revivals than possibly any other format in the century or so of its existence, most quietly coming to nought. The UK hardcore look fondly back to the mid to late 60’s boom of the Stones, the Animals, the Pretty Things, let alone the John Mayall conservatoire of musical bluesology and all his offshoots, with their tsunamis of influence breaking across the ocean, in the land of the genres creation, as myriad British blues based bands sold their coals, and some, to an American Newcastle. I make this point as the blues is actually in relatively rude health, here in the UK, if largely under the radar, and it is bands like Five Points Gang, who, by holding the baton, are keeping the flame alive. A three piece, the classic guitar, bass, drums, they have been around a relatively short while, yet have built up a head of steam that saw their live debut garnish some good reviews. A cosmopolitan trio, they consist of Welshman, Joe Pearce, on guitar and vocals, relocated Brazilian, Dinho Barral, on bass and, now, French newcomer, Gaet Allard on drums. With an earlier live EP, 2019’s’Live at the Premises’, getting some well due notice, they were all set to step a gear when lockdown effectively shattered that spell. Pearson and Barral spent that time honing their craft, writing songs as an acoustic duo, several drummers coming and going for various slots and sessions. The chemistry with Allard, hired for one such, was immediate: “It feels like I’m in a band with two brothers I never had”, says Pearson, and the new electric trio was born.

With a modus operandi to “bring blues into the 21st century”, this release carries a baker’s dozen of largely up-tempo songs that certainly draw attention to themselves and rank up there with, most closely, the work of Alan Nimmo’s estimable King King. Opener, and the pre-released single, ‘How Long’, is a potent stop start rocker, with striking lead vocal over pounding drums and an infectious riff, underpinned by the guest hammond organ of Chris Rand, the backing harmony vocals a pleasing touch. Written in response to the George Floyd case in the U.S., lyrically it pulls few punches and is an excellent start to proceedings.

‘All in All’ is a walking blues soulful swagger that carries a flavour that reminds of ZZ Top, the guitar again a joy, before it breaks briefly into a bluebeat middle eight, and the makings of a sweaty night out seems certain. A slower yet similarly jaunty ‘Let’s Stay Together’ further shows off the drums of Barral, mixed high and “toppy” in the mix. Pearson’s voice is a choice amalgam of Rory Gallagher and a slightly rougher Paul Rodgers, with even hints of Seal present when a note gets stretched. The organ is again an attractive presence, maybe one worth adding permanently to the ensemble.

A funky chopped rhythmic pulse imbues ‘Drifting Away’, the same Chris Rand this time adding horns. With this also featuring guest second guitar, Julien Baraness, who delivers a scorching solo of his own, the whole song is a riot. Sensing a the need now for something much more laid back, this is duly delivered with ‘All She Said’, where the harmony vocals again provide much of the melodic thrust. Barral’s bass acts as solid ballast throughout, with more solos from Pearson that demonstrate the range and control of his guitar. Talking of bass, the sinuous foundations in ‘What Kind of Man’ have you swiftly back out on the floor, for another sassy workout. These guys are certainly varying their paces, cherry picking from different schools of blues play. This, and next track, ‘All Points Bulletin’ , certainly show off their familiarity with one James Marshall Hendrix. Their calling card, with the repeated phrase “We’re the Five Points Gang”, is, in the best tradition of the blues, typically aggrandising as to their bad boy finesse. Well, if you don’t believe in yourselves……

A swivel into the heavy pop of ‘Deep Inside’, the band demonstrate another card hidden up their sleeve, with a bangingly commercial song, that harks back to when a song like this could be a shoo-in for the charts and for livening up an early ’70s Top of the Pops, a composite of Free and Deep Purple. Lovely guitar at the tail end of the song, too. That out of their system, it is back to business with ‘Made Man’, Barral’s slap bass bubbling through the sonic barrage.

‘Love by the Gun’ shouts AOR ballad, in a way that wouldn’t disgrace Foreigner in their prime, with economic guitar dancing around the impassioned vocal, the build up perceptibly growing, step by step, by way of a brief bass led interlude that you know is leading to some gratuitously OTT finale. In a good way, and, yes, you are not disappointed, it all going completely and gloriously bonkers as it reaches a climax, which isn’t quite what you were expecting. Odd. And, as I said, in a good way.

Back into classic Free territory with ‘The Only One’, a capably lurching lope, that suddenly jumps the clutch and becomes an angry entreaty to a an errant partner. This is followed with possibly the straightest blues here, should the purists be searching for more blues and less rock; personally, I have no such issue, the two being so well melded on this record. Allard gives the tubs some further exemplary thumping, the backing vocals again definitely an integral staple and identifier of their sound. All too soon it is time for the closer, ‘I See You Now’, which gives another swivel of style, Pearson’s lower vocal croon admitting a hint of grunge onto the palette, with the crooning backing vocals lifted from the best of r’n’b. A striking song and fine way to end the album, leaving that promise of a further string to their bow for future records. In a live stretched out setting, this would be one hell of a way to leave the stage, leaving the audience hungry for more. I look forward to Five Points Gang taking this opus out on the road and trust they will be able so to do soon.

Here’s the single, How Long, from Five Points Gang.

Five Points Gang: Bandcamp / Website / Facebook / Instagram / YouTube

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