It seems like Biters came out of nowhere amid a flurry of rave reviews a couple of years back with their debut album, Electric Blood. And rightly so. After a few near-misses I managed to catch them opening for Blackberry Smoke last month and their combination of punk, glam, riffs and swagger lifted straight from the 70’s may not have been a match made in Heaven, but they were damn good.
As a love letter to decades past, Biters had an unrelenting and obvious energy to them in their debut album. It was the sort of album which left you wanting more (Mosh certainly did when he reviewed it). And that’s where The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be comes in. As slick as what came before, the fuzzy tones sound like a deliberate choice when album production values weren’t as good. It works well and compared to albums with bad production (which strangely still happens in 2017), it acts as a throwback.
Biters may not be introducing anything new to the world but instead they’re pulling back the curtain to say “Look how great this was forty years ago!” They’ve managed to expand on their own repertoire by incorporating more sounds of the past and not just churn out another ten songs which could have been on the debut. There are a couple of moments with “Vulture City” and album opener “Let it Roll” but for the most part it’s a conscious effort to not make the same album twice whilst retaining their identity. It’s still Biters. It’s still retro rock.
Laden with swagger and attitude, the band channels T.Rex with “Gypsy Rose” with vocalist Tuk Smith replicating Marc Bolan’s similar drawl. It’s bouncy with a pop flavour to it and whilst the punk sound may be stripped back, this is easily one of the highlights on an album full of gems.
The complete left turn comes at the end of the album with the Southern-fried and aptly named “Goin’ Back to Georgia”. More acoustic with hints of slide guitar, it may not be what you’d expect a band like Biters to put out with its plonking rhythm and twangs. It’s an obvious nod to their home and their experiences of becoming an international touring band.
Between the vocal harmonies which are just begging to be sung along to and the largely upbeat radio-friendly riffs which contain nods to Thin Lizzy and Status Quo from Matt Gabs and Tuk, it’s the sort of music you can imagine in the sunshine, driving where the road takes you. Meanwhile bass man Philip Anthony and drummer Joey O’Brien create solid grooves which demand you to nod your head to. And even if you refuse, you’ll be acquiescing before you realise it.
Perhaps the only drawback, if you can call it that, is the restraint shown this time around. There was a sense of hunger and, dare I say it, danger on the previous record. This time around, it feels safer but in that trade-off, you get an album with more polish played by a band more sure of themselves and more professional, determined to land themselves in the history books. It feels more thought-out.
Biters may not bring anything new to the world but instead they combine some of the greatest sounds of the seventies to create their own sound. The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be is recognisably Biters without it being a carbon copy of the previous album. Its length from start to finish, purposeful production and sound harks back to when rock ruled the radio to pull in the older generations of fans and its subtle pop hooks to hopefully pull in a younger audience.
The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be is released 19th May on the following formats: