Tax the Heat have been teasing new material from their new album for some time. Having announced a gig at Glasgow’s Nice N Sleazy when they supported Royal Republic for the following month, they unveiled a couple of new tracks earmarked for the upcoming album. Then there was the bolshy move of them opening their support slot with Black Star Riders in Edinburgh (bearing in mind they’d never played there) with a brand new song.
I’ve lived with Tax the Heat’s debut for a couple of years now and it’s a mixture of “Finally!” and “Already?” Fed to the Lions was a wonderful example of how old school rhythm and blues could be given a poppy tint and given to the modern world. Change Your Position perfects the concept of a follow-up album – give us more of what made the debut so good but tweak it just enough to make it feel new whilst still retaining its identity.
From the minute opener “Money in the Bank” starts, it’s a perfect portrait of the rest of the album. It’s still Tax the Heat but they’ve roughened themselves up a bit. With a filthy blues punch of an opening, it’s like they’ve let their hair down a bit, undone the top button on their shirts and divested their clean-cut look, letting that 5 o’clock shadow show – even if three out of four members have a beard. Whilst the pop gloss has evaporated, they’ve kept the pop hooks and catchy choruses with “Cut Your Chains” just begging for a call-and-response situation at a gig.
Having been recorded “live”, it’s got that warmth and genuineness you just can’t replicate by recording everyone’s contributions individually. Not only that, it shows just how tight they are as a band, as slick as they come and they’ll have no strain having to replicate this at their upcoming tour. Full of menace and vigour, “Playing With Fire” has a massive stomp within it, the bridge instilling dread in the listener.
Elsewhere, the title track is inspired by a tangerine with access to the nuclear codes. Or at least, his inauguration did. “Change Your Position” is basically the idea of looking at yourself in the mirror admitting you’ve done wrong and changing yourself for the better and highlighting how this is a problem at large in society. Of course, it’s not all politically-charged with barn-burner “On the Run” full of humour and “The Last Time” whilst razor-sharp, is pretty dark at moments. Closing song “The Symphony Has Begun” is the perfect send-off for the album, combining elements of everything which precedes it, like the rest of the tracks, it’s short and punchy but there’s a grandiose, epic vibe to it. You wouldn’t find a song like this on the debut, mournful yet bright, it shows everything this band is capable of.
Combine the terrific song writing from Alex Veale with his guitar work and JP Jacyshyn and a song like “Taking the Hit” is something completely new from the Bristol lads. Bluesy and scuzzy as fuck in equal measure, it continues with the uptight “My Headspace”. Here, there’s frantic drumming from Jack Taylor and a beefy bassline from Antonio Angotti, to boot. However, whilst the lyrical content may change in tone between songs, the band work to their full potential – there’s not a weak song to be found on the album and no-one puts in a sub-par performance.
Change Your Position presents a band who are completely comfortable in their identity. By looking backwards into yesteryear, they’ve positioned themselves in a fairly unique space. No-one in today’s rock scene sound like Tax the Heat. Backed by great skill and belief in it whilst evolving their sound to become rougher and more hard-edged, there’s an incredible album which shouldn’t be overlooked.
Change Your Position is released on 9th March