First Blush

Tricky Woo

Last Gang Records, 2005

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/29/2005

Tricky Woo have been the undisputed kings of Canadian neo-garage rock since they first tore up the indie scene in the late 1990s. Their last album saw them undertake a poorly received musical departure that led to the breakup of the band for nearly four years, after which they re-assembled (bringing much missed guitarist Adrian Popovich back into the fold) and recorded First Blush, their fifth and strongest studio album to date.

Whereas the sound that they became popular for in the late '90s could be described as an intense update of the Stooges crossed with Mountain, First Blush is a half-hour blast of incendiary hard rock more along the lines of '70s proto-metal legends such as Thin Lizzy and Ted Nugent, with even harder moments recalling the tough melodicism of early Scorpions.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

While the band does wear its influences on its polyestered sleeve, the music is anything but a stale retread of the past. Like any great band, Tricky Woo take the basic ingredients of the music they love and add their own personality to the mix, creating a sound all their own.

As expected from a batch of musicians this talented, the new disc is jam-packed with muscular Gibson-through-Marshall-stacks guitar riffs that never fail to delight the ears with their catchiness. You see, like Angus and Malcolm Young, guitarists Adrian Popovich and Andrew Dickson (who is also the frontman) have that rare ability to recognize and harness the power of riffs that are often simple, but instantly memorable. This is a quality that few modern bands possess.

Surrounding the main riffs are tons of ferociously played little bluesy leads, solos and harmonies that display their considerable instrumental chops. While that was always one their trademarks, in the past they sometimes had a tendency to take the bombast a little too far. One of the great things about First Blush is that they've slightly reigned in their uncontrolled fury and delivered a more focused attack with more mature, creative songwriting than ever before, particularly where arrangements and Dickson's charismatic preacher vocal melodies are concerned.

Folks, forget about the Strokes, the White Stripes, the Hives or any of the other retro-rock revivalists that have been getting the media spotlight for the last few years. I can honestly say without exaggeration that they all sound like anemic amateurs next to likes of the simply brilliant Tricky Woo. This album is a perfect example of the way rock is meant to be played. Ten songs that move along at a no-bullshit brisk pace that will force out the air guitar within, hypnotic head banging, or a lead foot on the pedal. If you're looking for a rock album that will blow you away with its raw intensity and expertly performed musicianship that recalls the glory days when music dared to be bold, do not hesitate to pick up First Blush -- as far as I'm concerned, it's the album of the year.

Rating: A

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© 2005 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Last Gang Records, and is used for informational purposes only.