Another album that’s finally bubbled out of the quagmire that is our review pile and onto my mp3 player is Back to Zero from Perth (Oz) based rockers Ragdoll. I’m going to pretend it’s 1983 and they sent me it by surface mail… and that’s a realistic fantasy given their 80’s-influenced rock sound.
Ragdoll seem to be doing well for themselves in their native land, grabbing some impressive support and festival slots. On the strength of Back to Zero, they could do well abroad too. Strangely, the title track is a weird musical intro so we’ll ignore that, and kick off as the album does properly with “Shine”. Beginning with a solo vocal chant, it rapidly becomes a thumping, churning rock number – typical of all ten (proper) tracks.
Throughout the album, the band make use of plenty of effects on both the vocals and the guitars. I’m no musician but there’s a ton of fuzz, wah-wah, distortion and… stuff, but at no point does it sound like plugging in an effects pedal for the hell of it. It all works, though I’d hate to be the roadie who had to wire it all together for a live show.
Ragdoll have a straightforward hard rock sound that it’s hard to find fault with. Despite not being original, they’re bloody good at what they do. It only took me two listens to really get into the album and if you’re not stomping your foot by the time you get to the chorus of “Playing God” then one of your kids has glued your shoes to the floor for a joke. Slap them over the head, pop on a fresh pair of loafers and get back to enjoying the tunes.
There’s a bit of variety in the music, for example with the addition of a slightly trippy overtone to “Rewind Your Mind” and “Dreaming Out Loud”; and the up-tempo batterings within “Letting Go”. The album ends with the funk-laden lunacy of instrumental “Kungfoolery”. I mean, with a name like that it just had to be different. Overall, though, this is a die-cast heavy rock album of the highest calibre.
Strangely one of the bands they remind me of in places is XLR8R, an unsigned band from Newcastle from around the late 80’s that virtually none of you reading this will have heard of. It’s that kind of home-grown, talented, catchy rock that deserved to be heard. XLR8R never quite made it due to the change in the music climate at the time. Here’s hoping that Ragdoll don’t suffer a similar fate.
Back to Zero is out now from pretty much every digital outlet on Earth or on CD via Firestarter Distribution (AU) and Bad Reputation (EU).