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Friday, June 21, 2013

The Poodles – ‘Tour De Force’ album review

The Poodles – ‘Tour De Force’ album review

Released through: Frontiers Records. Release date: Available now.
OK, let get this clear from the get go, The Poodles ARE a band to take seriously, even if that name may misguide you as it did me initially for a couple of years, that maybe you could not do so ... Take them seriously, but you really should!

I’d almost like to say to them, ‘Guys, please change the name,’ but …, they have their reasons.
I’d heard of them in 2009, but did not pick up on them until 2010’s live ‘No Quarter’ release – Review link here: - which I found great to listen to, even if it did sit with me for a little while as I found it difficult to think about a hard rock / heavy metal band called The Poodles.

I also got a copy of the related ‘In The Flesh’ DVD release at the time, which just convinced me completely that these guys were for real.
Track it down if you can, it shows the funny side to these guys as well as great performances!
In 2011, the album ‘Performocracy’ – Yes, strange title … - was released and I really enjoyed that one too - - and now here we are two years on and we have a new one from the ‘unruly dogs’ of Sweden, in ‘Tour De Force.’

Yes they are a Swedish band who generally really has their own sound, although at times, they do remind me of German rockers The Scorpions. Am I getting your interest yet folks?
The lineup of Jakob Samuel (Vocals), Pontus Egberg (Bass), Christian Lundqvist (Drums) and Henrik Bergqvist on guitars, really packs quite a punch I can tell you!

Hard to believe there are no keyboards – Ahem …, are all the backing effects all guitar, really? – as to me, elements throughout truly sound like keyboards or even orchestra, yet there’s no credit in the press release?
This is what I hate about digital copies of new albums, no info?!

There are clearly keyboards and strings present on ‘Leaving the Past to Pass.’
Well, there’s plenty of good stuff about this album, there really is and in my book, it’s another winner.
There is though, an incredibly gentle starting power ballad that many rockers may just go, ‘That intro is way too soft,’ likewise another track starts with a very poppy, well more catchy AOR like actually but then the rock kicks in, so really I say, get over it folks!
So, to the opener and ‘Misery Loves Company,’ is an in your face out and out rocker, with great hook lines and had me sold right away. It’s certainly a very hard hitting song to kick off the album to get a message across to the doubters out there and a massive pre-chorus and strong / catchy chorus.
‘Shut Up!’ certainly gives a little nod in it’s opening and verses to some of David Lee Roth’s solo material – Think Steve Vai era – or even Van Halen to me and yet then just kills with a very hard edged AOR like style chorus. With these two opening songs alone, it’s an impressive new release.
Next track ‘Happily Ever After’ is yet another winner, great twisting verses and nice big choruses, killer guitar work from Henrik Bergqvist here – As elsewhere of course! – and pummeling double bass drum in the choruses, wonderful bass lines too.
You just have to hear it to grasp where I’m coming from.
Really love ‘Viva Democracy’ too, a constant edgy groove throughout, yet the song as all Poodles songs, maintains its melody and the song’s light moment mid-way through. Another winner!
Heavy and hard rocking is the best description for the opening on ‘Going Down,’ then it eases back into a wonderfully melodic verse and then the pre-chorus gets a little meaner and then the chorus is a monster hook. The little melodic bridge, is great if too brief as well. Jakob Samuel’s vocals throughout are unique, they truly are and his style and phrasing so often just blows me away with his overall range.
So to the big old power ballad that is ‘Leaving the Past to Pass.’
It’s seriously as good as anything else you’ll ever hear and it really emphasises once again about how classy hard rock bands are about writing brilliant power ballads …

The balance is superb, it really is and if mainstream radio was like it used to be where big stations won’t play current melodic rock bands new rock released singles, but they will gravitate to the power ballads, this could be monster!

I say that, thinking back to the early 80’s days in the UK, where US AOR bands (Journey, Styx, Toto, etc) would only be made known to the British public through the bands ballads. Sad but true …

Radio One or any other local radio station would never have played ‘Blue Collar Man’ or ‘Renegade’ by Styx, but they’d play ‘Babe’ or ‘Boat on a River’ to death!

Same with Journey, all we’d hear is ‘Open Arms’ or ‘Who’s Crying Now,’ back then – Ironic they’ve played ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ to death now over there, but never would have done when it first came out. – you’d never have heard ‘Escape’ or ‘Separate Ways.’
No way and the exact same with Toto, we got ‘Africa,’ ‘I Won’t Hold You Back’ and ‘Roseanna’ nothing like ‘Only The Children.’
That said, they (Toto) did get lucky with ‘Hold The Line’ getting some play and breaking in the charts, but then that was ’78 …

Sorry, got of track with that rant there, so let’s get back to it!
Next song ’40 Days and 40 Nights’ was recently released as a single and rightly so, as it’s hugely commercial with plenty of hooks about it and right from the almost poppy like keyboard intro right through the massive chorus, it’s begging for radio play.
Very strong contender for a hit song …
In the right market / territory perhaps it will be big. Here’s hoping for these guys …
To the very Aerosmith like ‘Kings and Fools’ next and it just has a certain groove about it that actually has elements of possibly Beatles – Think ‘Revolution’ – and even a bit of Robert Plant like phrasing in the verses, so clearly these guys are very influenced by some classic players.
Cowbell anyone? It’s what we get as ‘Miracle’ kicks off and then gets into its steady, yet edgy verse groove that actually took me a while to get into this track. Perhaps a little less instant, yet then with the chorus it does grow on you and then the bridge takes the song down another path. It’s a song that has really grown on me a lot more with each subsequent play.
I’m still wondering who does the keyboards on here, as they are what provides the intro and background throughout ‘Godspeed’ next.
It’s a solid enough track but for me, perhaps the least outstanding track here in my opinion. 
‘Now is the Time’ is next and picks up the tempo quite a bit from ‘Godspeed’ and it’s pretty good at getting back on track here.
There’s a distinct metal edge to the riff throughout the verses in ‘Only Just Begun,’ certainly at the beginning and the way Jakob presents the song and then the chorus brings it back again. 
It’s feeling like to be honest that towards the end of the album, it lost a little of it’s infectious vibe.
With the final bonus track ‘En För Alla För En,’ sorry, but as it starts, I can’t help but think of the Eurythmics ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This),’ obviously with significantly more edginess to it, oh and it’s sung in Swedish!

It was jointly written by the band with Treat’s guitarist Anders Wikström and songwriter Fredrik Thomander, for the Swedish national Ice Hockey team.
It’s musically very catchy and if I only knew Swedish, I could probably sing along no problem, but right now it’s just an enjoyable listen to wrap the album up.

So a good album yet again from these guys, that I really recommend and I know I’m a little biased as I’ve really got to enjoy their music since discovering the band just a few years back, but this album for the most part is great!

Perhaps the tail end of the album has a couple of tracks that I’m still not 100% sold on, as the rest of the album, but they are still good tunes.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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