[9 December 2002]
Back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the depth of talented Australian rock groups was quite high. Having punk rockers Radio Birdman making some inroads internationally, groups like AC/DC would create a global presence for more than two decades. But for every AC/DC there is Rose Tattoo, a group that had just as much skill and ability but never reaped the rewards they so justly deserved. After breaking up in 1984, the band was requested by Guns N Roses to open for them for the Australian leg of its 1993 world tour. In 2000, the group returned with 25 to Life and a tour of Europe. Now, sounding like they’re still joyfully stuck in a time machine circa AC/DC’s Highway to Hell, the group has returned with a genuine good time rock and roll record.
Led by singer Angry Anderson, an enigmatic bald and heavily tattooed character, the band begins with a meaty and infectious “Black Magic”. Not as raspy or ragged as Brian Johnson, Anderson is fully supported by Pete Wells on slide guitar and “Rockin’” Rob Riley on electric guitar. It’s a perfect opener that sets the stage for much more of the same. “The Devil Does It Well” has more of an early ‘80s heavy metal feeling to it, with the constant 4/4 drumming of Paul DeMarco. While it might seem relative simplistic, the KISS philosophy (Keep It Simple, Stupid) sounds just as fresh now as it did in the group’s first time around. The track tends to slouch slightly near the conclusion though, perhaps not fading out while it’s still on top and instead going for a lengthy jam ending.
One aspect of the album you won’t find that appealing is the lyrics. The group won’t be known for its deep or hidden meanings in the words, but it’s not supposed to be given the airtight rhythm section that sounds like it’s a live take in the studio rather than being overly produced. “No Mercy” is a blend of the first two tracks, a bit more infectious than both with a faster tempo and more slide guitar deep in the bowels of the track. “Pain” is a Zeppelin-like tempo with Anderson’s accent coming to the fore before building into a thundering guitar rock tune. It also has a lot in common with Judas Priest when Rob Halford was still the group’s key component. “Kisses and Hugs” is a punk metal track that comes across like Aerosmith’s “Young L.U.S.T.”. “I don’t need no one to tell me how to feel / Don’t need a multi album deal,” Anderson howls over a head banging, foot stomping tune.
“House Of Pain” is perhaps one of the more neatly packaged songs of the 16 presented. With a somewhat cookie-cutting blueprint, the band sounds a bit uninspired and lacking that oomph for the first time on the record. “I Can’t Help It If I’m Lucky” has a lot in common with California punk legends Social Distortion in its punishing beat and infectious old-school rock guitar. “Union Man” deals with, well, the support of unions and “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay”. “Satan’s Eyes” misses the mark with a heavy metal theme and sound that doesn’t look good on the quintet. “Hard Rockin’ Man” and the quasi-funky “Stir Crazy” are two of the strongest here though, the latter relying far more on a groove than any crunchy guitar riff.
The last quarter of the album stands up against the other dozen tracks, but tends to improve on the earlier portions. “Living Outside My Means” has much more of galloping beat to it with Anderson playing more of a bit role than being a dominating force. His madcap laughs and devil-may-care diatribe only adds to the song’s appeal. “Illustrated Man” continues on the hard and enjoyable rock path with another high-octane 4/4 tempo and some stellar guitar work. The album isn’t the art rock of Radiohead and doesn’t truly care to be. If fans of AC/DC or just out and out great guitar rock haven’t heard of this underrated band, don’t say I didn’t tell you!
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/rosetattoo-pain/