A surprising left-turn from Jeff Beck with his first new studio album in over a half-decade. Here the veteran guitar virtuoso has enlisted a whole new band and made an album which sounds like nothing else in his canon. Be afraid – possibly be very afraid. But be open too, if you’re a fan of his playing then Loud Hailer is actually something of a tour de force; the wizard waves his wand over a brittle set of political rants by existing UK duo, Bones. That’s the young guitarist Carmen Vandenberg and vocalist Rosie Bones.
Some of the lyrics are flat out awful – clichéd and I’m not sure who this music is supposed to appeal to (apart from hard-core Beck fanatics, and even then it could be a stretch – since many Beck fans like him best when his guitar is the lead vocal). But somehow – in a truly magical way – the music shines; oblivious to fashions, fads, taste and trends, as has been the way with Beck since the turn of the seventies and certainly for most of the last 30 years.
There are a couple of instrumental pieces to appease fans who only want to hear Beck – Pull It is reminiscent of some of Guitar Shop’s heaviest of liftings, but even when Beck is the introductory voice – as on Scared For The Children – it’s worth tuning in to at least hear what he has to say.
The heavily politicised rants have their place too – and even if it sometimes feels a bit cloying, a bit silly, or trying too hard, there’s this wonderful sound that Vandenberg and Beck create underneath.
Beck’s masterful voicings take in blues bends (Shames) and crushing hard rock (The Ballad of The Jersey Wives), O.I.L. rides along on the kind of funky rhythm guitar the world will soon miss now Prince is gone and with the short instrumental Edna, Beck circles around some of those gorgeous moments he’s offered on the likes of Where Were You, Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers and some of his work with Roger Waters on Amused To Death – though it all feels brand new here; a man revitalised, a man channelling the anger that’s always hovered very near him and his music.
The solo in Live In The Dark is damn near worth the price of admission. He throttles back and launches a beautiful smatter of overdriven guitar noise that is a million miles from Eric Clapton’s limp, stained-trouser blues seepage and Jimmy Page’s paralysing career inertia.
I’m holding onto this for now and warming to it with each and every listen – even though that last thing I thought I needed or wanted from a Jeff Beck album was a bunch of songs (mostly) featuring a lead vocalist.
He’s miles ahead of the game – and here he’s able to really showcase that being uninterested in what anyone else is doing, staying true to his own vision of being a lead guitar player, has resulted in some of the very best lines of his career. The closing Shrine sees Beck weaving a hypnotic spell around Bones’ paean for peace.
I don’t feel like I’m fully part of the conversation with this record, sometimes an embarrassed eavesdropper, but I’m in awe of Beck’s abilities as both player and musical force that moves forward, marching always to his own beat.