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Towers of London

Blood Sweat and Towers

(TVT; US: 1 Aug 2006; UK: 5 Jun 2006)

The Towers of London want you to know that they love filth—scuzzed-out guitars, sloppy solos and guttersnipe vocals from frontman Donny Tourette, who asserts on the opening track, “I’m a rat.” They may have the grungy-glam look and sound down better than any band in recent memory, this side of the Exploding Hearts; any number of the “The” garage bands have come and gone, while nearest competitor Andrew W.K. always gives off a whiff of motivational speaker. So the Towers—singer Donny Tourette, guitarist The Rev, bassist Tommy Brunette and drummer Snell—have that going for them, which is nice. The only problem befalling the Towers is that they’re all dressed down with nowhere to go.

As air guitar worthy as their full-length debut, Blood Sweat and Towers is, (arriving on the heels of a handful of hyped UK singles)—and, in fact, track number two is titled “Air Guitar”—the Towers spend too much time picking on easy targets. They set their sights on foes like the pop music scene with, um, “Kill the Pop Scene” (“Parasites of society!” snarls Tourette) and know that a rich girl is snooty because she drinks red wine (“Beaujolais”). It’s disheartening to see how little the band has learned from their ‘70s Britpunk forebears when it comes to class warfare (for lack of a better term). Acts like Chelsea (“We Got a Right”), Sham 69 (“If The Kids Are United”) and Stiff Little Fingers (“Alternative Ulster”, “Suspect Device”) knew how to rally their audiences with worthwhile causes. The Towers, by comparison, seem to be making mountains out of molehills. I dunno, maybe I was just born 20-something years too late.

In the defense, the Towers can’t help that it’s 2006 and not 1977. But the calendar can’t get them off the hook for lazy cliché-ridden songs like “Good Times” (as in, “Tonight I’m gonna have a…”) and “Start Believin’”—neo-glam’s answer to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”, and a question that was never posed. The Towers simply lack both goofy wink of Art Brut and the party-your-way-to-purity ethos of the aforementioned Andrew W.K. to pull these songs off convincingly. Too, for a band that prides itself on life in the gutter, I’m not sure where the band found a 30-piece orchestra to pitch in on “King”—didn’t our boys see what happened to Axl Rose when he played this very card?

Still, it’s not a complete wash. Guitarist The Rev clearly hearts Johnny Thunders and the riffs throughout the album cover up some of the disc’s shortcomings. “How Rude She Was” dials down the noise to reveal a genuinely catchy tune. And by all rights, a tune called “Fuck It Up” should’ve been killed off in the planning stages, but damned if the boys don’t deliver a rousing kiss-off to a dangerous girl (“D’ya think it’s fair to walk right up / Take my life and fuck it up?”) The band must think it’s a good song too, as they have both a full band and acoustic version of the song, and wouldja believe the latter—a backporch stomp/barstool lament—is the better of the two?

In a year with a dearth of Big Dumb Rock records, the Towers have done their part to rectify that problem. But considering the hype and braggadocio accompanying the band—one magazine paired the Towers with the incomparable New York Dolls for a recent photo shoot—the end result, Blood Sweat and Towers may be young, loud and snotty, but it plays as real and deep as the band’s beloved air guitar.


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