Loud Hailer

Jeff Beck

Deuce Music, 2016


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Loud Hailer finds Jeff Beck and Rosie Bones in full badass mode.

This isn’t the garage rocker of the Yardbirds, the jazz guitarist of Blow By Blow or the instrumental prog-virtuoso of Emotion & Commotion, Beck’s last album. It’s full-out gnarled rock skronk, all buzzsaw power chords, arena-size noise, and socially-literate lyrics snarled by Bones. I admit to not being thoroughly familiar with Beck’s entire catalog, but I refuse to believe he’s ever been as modern and restless as he is here.

Witness how the scuzzy instrumental “Pull It” feels like a cousin to Imagine Dragons’ “I’m So Sorry” or how the snarling funk-blues attitude of “Thugs Club” refuses to shy away from pushing the needle into red and you’ll see what I mean. Unlike Eric Clapton’s new album, which found him treading old ground yet again, Beck is absorbing current music and current politics and using that to inform his work. For a British Invasion vet at age 72, this could be embarrassing, but Beck overcomes any potential issues through virtuosity, force of will and his collaboration with Bones and guitarist Carmen Vandenberg.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The discordant, jagged guitars rarely flirt with blues figures, and while Beck peels off solos that cut like a jigsaw through your spine (like on “Right Now”), he rarely shows off like a virtuoso can easily do. The point seems to be that we live in turbulent times, and this anguish and frustration can be expressed through words and music…which everyone knows, of course, but it’s easier said than done.

The disc suffers a bit when it falls back on well-worn sounds, like “Shame” and “Shrine,” but those moments also provide a welcome respite and a reminder of what Beck has always done well. “The Ballad Of The Jersey Wives” also jerks around musically, and despite Bones’ soulful vocal work, she can’t quite bring together the music or the lyrics that recall 9/11 for some odd reason. In a disc that looks at what the future holds for children, the potential hellscape created by conservative politicians remaining in power, people caring less about political engagement and more about “reality” TV (which, in America, have become the same thing in 2016), our dependence on fossil fuels and so forth, dredging up George W. Bush and the Twin Towers is hardly timely on a disc that is trying to be timely.

For all its serious themes and punk energy, Beck and company still find time for some fun on “O.I.L.,” which recalls the guitar tones of Blow By Blow but sets them to some cool funk and questionable lyrics just like the kind funk used to make (digression: Have you ever really read the words to Rick James’ “Give It To Me Baby?” It’s kind of creepy). It’s a blast of a song and an avenue Beck seems to feel comfortable in.

I don’t expect Loud Hailer will change anybody’s minds or open anybody’s eyes to what they don’t already hear on CNN every day, and I don’t expect Beck thought it would. But he had some things to say, and he found some new ways to say them, and both of those deserve respect no matter what decade of performance you are in. Casual Jeff Beck fans probably won’t enjoy this one, but those who know the artist’s restless spirit (akin to Neil Young’s) or who are into loud, politically-charged punk-garage-arena rock will enjoy much of this disc.

Rating: B-

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© 2016 Benjamin Ray 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 Deuce Music, and is used for informational purposes only.