Philip Sayce's Steamroller does just what it promises - it rolls over anything in it's way, wiping out fear, bringing on joy, and rocking like a crossfire hurricane. This record's been out for a while in most of the world, but it just landed on my doorstep and has found its way into my regular rotation.
"On the surface it's about the most beautiful woman in the world, but deeper inside the song, it's about steamrolling fear and doing what's in your heart and soul." Philip Sayce
This is Sayce's fourth solo long player, and Steamroller is a great distillation of his storied past, but much more than that it is a rockin' mother of a record that starts out in high gear and never slows down. Nothing in his discography quite prepared me for the in your face, straight up rock that Sayce, co-writer/producer Dave Cobb (Soundgarden, Jamey Johnson), bassist Joel Gottschalk, and drummer extraordinaire Chris Powell bring to this table. Sayce has finally corralled his huge skill set into an album that sounds like nothing but himself - the influences are discernible, but they've taken a back seat to the star of the show. This is one of the great hard rock records of 2012 - one of the absolute best.
Stung By A Woman is another swaggering slab of brutish rock - this isn't blues rock, and it isn't confused about its heritage. When Sayce kicks the solo into gear, it's much closer to classic brit rock than tired SRV posturing that I'm asked to digest from most of the blues rock set. I love a little blues mixed into my rock, but pale imitations have exhausted me, and I'm thrilled by someone stepping up and rocking without apology. This is everything good about arena sized rock.
Riff rock is a not easy - in fact, it's a breed of rock that gets harder by the moment. Big slabs of fabulous rock easily fade into cliche, and it's really tough to write a rocker that doesn't sound re-hashed and re-packaged, so when I hear something like Rhythm and Truth, I am extremely grateful. This number rocks blissfully through a cool intro and verse when suddenly Sayce tosses off a few licks that sound like The Yardbirds cum 21st Century - a little Eastern motif, some great hammer-on madness, then it's off into a another dose of what made the 'Smiths of Boston so incredible. Maybe Rocks was playing when he first laid eyes on his first beautiful baby sitter, who knows? Who cares? This rocks - and beautifully.
Funk finds its way into Beautiful, but not in a forced, or stilted way - it is as much James Brown as it is anything, remember when Steven Tyler still 'had it?' Some Worrell approved organ makes it into the mix, and this has me dancing in a cool way - again, not forced, or stilted, this sounds righteously organic.
Holding On could be seen as just another Hendrixian string bouncing chordal workout, but Powell's intense thrashing, and Sayce's confident vocal elevate it beyond the mundane. When Sayce goes into his solo, it's strong and passionate - again, no regurgitating of things from the past, he's found his place in the world and he's clearly gone beyond being someone else's guitarist, or even just another guy playing hot blues rock. These tunes are very true is spirit and intent - you can hear the man in the musician, and that's point of the trip.
I really like The Bull - it separates the rock from the wimps. Let's face it, even the coolest, most enlightened muso will occasionally end up on the wrong end of a music business deal gone wrong, and there's been historically no better way to exercise one's demons than with a pissed off lyric, and a loud guitar - "When you fuck with the bull, you're gonna get the horns," indeed. If you can't dig this, well, I hate to say it, but you might just be a....well, I hate to say it, but you may be a pussy.
Aberystwyth is the town in Wales in which Philip Sayce found birth into this lifetime, and this set closing instrumental that closes out Steamroller shows that Mr. Sayce has spent his time well - he's plied his trade quite selflessly for a great many years, he's spent a few years finding his feet as an artist, and has now made a record that should, if the world is right, sound his arrival as a big, bright star.
|Photo by Austin Hargrave|