Friday, April 9, 2021

RAZORBATS "Mainline Rock N Roll"


(c) 2021 Rob Mules Records

  1. Rock N Roll Kills
  2. Working For The Weekend
  3. Rebel Soul
  4. Little Miss Crazy
  5. Big Time
  6. The City
  7. Cocaine Karma
  8. White Trash Radio
  9. Venice
  10. Nightcrawlers

Paul Vercouteren--Vocals
Kjetil F. Wevling--Guitars, Backing Vocals
Asle Tangen--Guitars, Backing Vocals
Martin Korsgaard Hervig--Bass, Backing Vocals
Torris Ilievski--Drums, Keys, Backing Vocals

Additional Musicians
Chris Damien Doll--Backing Vocals
Monica Rennan Hjelle--Backing Vocals

It's been three years since Razorbats released a full-length album, but 2021 sees the Norwegian rockers return with Mainline Rock N Roll.  And, as has always been the case with Razorbats, the band has done so on their own terms, making the album (at least for now) available ONLY on vinyl and digital download.  That's CDs were pressed for Mainline Rock N Roll, at least as of this review.  Of course, in 2016 Razorbats released an EP, This High, digitally and on cassette only, so this shouldn't come as any kind of shock to fans of the band.

The record...yes, RECORD...kicks off with "Rock N Roll Kills", building from some guitar distortion to hard-hitting drums, to some seriously crunchy rhythm guitars to lead the song in.  Everything backs off during the verse sections but comes blasting back in during the pre-chorus portions, complete with some gang shouted "Hey! Hey! Heys!".  There is a definite pop sensibility to the song's structure here, but with a defiant, middle-finger-in-your-face-and-grinning-about-it attitude that sets the stage for everything to come on the rest of Mainline Rock N Roll.

The band has recently released a second single from the album in "Working For The Weekend", but fear not that this is a cover of the classic Loverboy tune.  Gritty rhythm guitars and catchy "oh oh ohs" intro the track before everything again backs off to just Vercouteren's voice, Hervig's bass, and Ilievski's drums to carry the majority of the first verse section, with the guitars jumping back in to rev things up during the hyper-catchy chorus and then on the following verses.  A song about grinding it out in a dead-end job during the week and then cutting loose on the weekend, "Working..." is a fun track with some total 70s keyboard effects thrown into the mix to keep things interesting.  For my money, this is the kind of track that Razorbats has always done exceptionally well, combining a love for retro rock with some 90s pop-punk attitude in places, to keep things fresh and interesting, even while resembling something from four or five decades ago!

"Rebel Soul" plays up the band's love for that pop punk sound I just mentioned, but still manages to incorporate a much cleaner, more 80s oriented, melodic rock lead guitar solo and bridge section.  I am impressed on this track (and throughout the record) with the backing vocal work, and every guy in the band contributes to this part of the album in some capacity, getting some help from their buddy, the Sleaze Fuhrer himself, Chris Damien Doll, from the Suicide Bombers.  To me, this song just sounds like the guys having fun and grinding away at a party rock tune, which is what Razorbats has long symbolized for me, even though they do so with less retro-attitude than in other places.

"Little Miss Crazy" was chosen as the lead single for the record, and with good reason, as it is probably the strongest...and my favorite...on an album filled with catchy songs.  Musically darker than anything else here, "Little Miss Crazy" is a moody rocker with a cool opening guitar riff and an undeniably catchy chorus that hooks the listener with the first spin.  Cheeky lyrics abound in this track as well, with Vercouteren opining, "Why are the cutest ones always insane?" when singing about his "Swan in a pond of doves".  The straightforward and somewhat sparse nature of the track, as well as the way the song is produced, really allows it to take on a haunting feel, and nothing here sounds over-produced or forced.  Hervig's bass is given a strong voice throughout the track, and Wevling's solo is smooth, soulful ear candy that is set off by the simple acoustic riff that runs the entirety of the track.  Vercouteren is absolutely spot-on with his delivery here, and some excellent backing vocals from Monica Rennan Hjelle lend a bit of support to an outstanding track that I find myself drawn to multiple times whenever I spin Mainline Rock N Roll.

A couple of tracks here have seen previous release...sort of.  "The City" was originally supposed to appear on a split-EP with another band called the Sick Things, but my understanding is the EP was never released, although the song was released as both a single and video.  A thick bass line drives the track from the get-go and a catchy, sing-along chorus feeds into the fun of this bouncy rocker.  I'm very glad to see the song get a second chance at life on this album.

Likewise, "White Trash Radio" is given another breath of life on Mainline Rock N Roll after being released as a stand-alone single in 2019.  Kjetil told me that this track has been re-recorded for this release, but the song sounds almost identical to me.  Regardless, this is a fun rock track with a big, catchy hook, nicely fuzzed-up guitars, and a classic 70s guitar rock style that channels a bit of "Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting" as it bounces along with plenty of energy and tongue-in-cheek attitude from Vercouteren.  Check out the awesome video below...

Sandwiched in between these fun rewinds is "Cocaine Karma", a plucky, sassy track that makes me think of a combination of the sing-along melodies of Cheap Trick and the melodic chug-chugga-chug of Marvelous 3.  A largely sparse track, "Cocaine Karma" starts off with Vercouteren using a bit of a sneer to his vocals before being supported by some strong backing vocals and a punchy rhythm section that is just a lot of fun to bop along to.  Once the sing-along chorus hits...forget about it...the song is firmly wedged into your brain.  Wevling drops a cool little solo into the mix, and some handclaps are interjected in time for a final run through that earworm chorus.  Just a really well constructed song from start to finish! 

"Venice" throws a bit of a curve ball into the mix, as this is a haunting, acoustic-based ballad that is completely unlike anything else on the record...or in the band's catalog, for that matter.  Vercouteren's vocal skills are fully on display here, especially during the first verse where virtually all electricity is stripped away from the instruments, save a lone, mournful guitar tone that interjects itself in various places.  Once again, some excellent backing vocals really lend themselves to the fullness of this track's sound, and Wevling's wailing solo is spot-on perfect for this song that continually builds upon itself, adding little musical bits here and there until the fullness of the track is finally achieved in time for Wevling to drop in another wickedly melodic outro solo.  A really, really powerful song unlike anything the band has tried before.  Highly recommended!

The album concludes with the high voltage, early Motley Crue-styled rocker, "Nightcrawlers".  A little bit punky, a little bit sleazy, "Nightcrawlers" is pure fun from the moment the thunderclaps intro the song, and the early 80s guitar tones are a true joy to hear!  A complete downshift in tempo accompanies the bridge section which features some werewolf howls in the background, only to find the guitars charging hard out of this little break and chewing their way through to the end, with some flash and flair to the presentation here.   I can pretty much guarantee "Nightcrawlers" is my second favorite track here, trailing only "Little Miss Crazy", and it really makes me wish the album wasn't ending every time I get to the song as I truly love this track and this record.  

Every time the band releases new music, be it a single, and EP, or a full release, I find myself a bit giddy with anticipation, and I am always worried I am hyping things up too much for myself.  Sooner or later I have to be let down, right?  Well, so far, so good with Razorbats as they manage yet again to keep me engaged from start to finish.  Growing more skilled as songwriters with each release, and getting tighter and tighter as performers, Razorbats are a band that has seemingly come a long way since their killer debut, Camp Rock, which is truly saying something as that album was Glitter2Gutter's album of the year for 2015!  Will Mainline Rock N Roll put another Glitzy award on Razorbats' mantle at year's end?  Only time will tell, but the band has certainly delivered a contender!

Rating:  Razorbats remain one of my favorite bands that most folks have likely never heard of, and remain oh, so crankable!  Find a turntable...or download it...and crank this to 9!

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