When you have as good a debut album as Bad Touch did in Half Way Home, the concept of the “difficult second album” is an ever-looming presence. Striking while the iron is still hot, the band have released their second full-length effort in the space of (give or take) eighteen months.
Constant touring and shows with contemporaries and legends alike has made Truth Be Told all the better for it. The biggest takeaway is the growth and maturity on display from the Norfolk-based band. By no means a re-treading of old ground, from the minute you hit the play button, there’s a sense of the band noticeably upping their game whilst simultaneously remaining true to their core sound.
Combining blues with Southern boogie, it’s a tightly-woven package to appeal to all those lovers of classic rock for the modern era. The crunching and wailing guitars on offer from the duo of Rob Glendinning and Daniel Seekings show their old-school influences with pride, balancing the tenderness and deftness of blues but also digging deep into a grittier and heavier territory alongside it.
After the chilled and meandering “One More Night” opens the album, lead single “99%” earnestly begs for attention, featuring a Free-esque guitar solo. It works as a great introduction not only to the band but for old fans alike, showing their growth in full flow. Following on from that is the Led Zeppelin-inspired “Waiting For This”, full of pent-up anger, vocalist Stevie Westwood laces his voice with venom and bitterness, the evident power from his vocal chords being pushed to their limit.
“Heartbreaker, Soulshaker” shares the opening line of Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog” and its bombast but in a far more bluesy tone. It’s something which re-appears on “Made to Break” with more emphasis on boogie and massive grooves. “Let the Sun Shine” is a quick two-minute number, highlighting the skill of rhythm section George Drewry (drums) and Michael Bailey (bass). Less guitar heavy than elsewhere on the album, it reinforces how essential a powerhouse rhythm section like this pair are to a band.
For all its upbeat numbers, the band know how to drop a gear and equally flourish in that department with songs like “Take Your Time” and “Outlaw”. The former explores the idea of hasty decisions; to open your ears to the advice given to you that you may otherwise ignore and to keep one thing in mind: “This too shall pass”. Meanwhile the latter looks at the idea of material possessions not being the be all and end all, relying on a person’s strength of character and accepting ourselves for who we are, despite our faults.
With every track aiming to be relatable, there’s bound to be some shared experience between the listener and the songs as they cover a whole wealth of topics. Even in this area, the band have grown; as songwriters, they keep their subject material grounded which will stand them in good stead to pick up more fans and connect with audiences in a live setting.
Stevie Westwood’s voice sounds as good as ever; rich and powerful yet manages the sombre moments with the same finesse. It’s almost hypnotic as it joins the music, serving as a testament to the quality of the band. It’s an album – and indeed, band – which is greater than the sum of its parts.
If you haven’t heard Bad Touch before, this is a perfect place to start; a wonderful distillation of everything they’ve strived for in their career up to this point. If you’re already well-versed in their work, this will sate your appetite and then some. You’ll notice the massive leap forward the band has taken, refining their unique sound and how much they’ve grown since their debut.
Truth Be Told is the kind of album people will talk about in years to come; the one which put them on the map. The sense of determination is baked into the music, an urge to graduate to bigger things and it would be well-deserved.
Truth Be Told is out now.