Sometimes, all it takes is a name to tell you what a band is about. Dirty Moonshine manage that with their name. You immediately expect denim, leather, spandex, enough hairspray to rip new holes in the ozone layer, wrapped up in an overpowering musk of tobacco. So maybe they don’t look like that, but they sure as hell sound like it.
Expect the usual straightforward hard rock you’d expect from AC/DC, the sludgy tones and thunderous drums from Clutch and the crunch and sleazy bravado of Velvet Revolver. Songs such as “Saints & Sinners” and “Sedusa” wrap these influences together perfectly and provide a strong start to the album whilst “Sailing Down Death Valley” is a full-on ode to Velvet Revolver. This is a band who are sure of what they want to sound like, showing off all their influences but keeping it restrained to avoid it becoming a mess. You get a sense Dirty Moonshine have made this album for themselves and if anyone happens to like it – bonus.
Elsewhere “Fake it Till You Feel It” moves the band in a different direction. With a more melodic slant, there’s a chunky, punk edge to the guitars and if it was just a touch grimier, would be right at home on a Duff McKagan’s Loaded record. With its title the play on that old phrase “fake it ‘til you make it”, it’s your typical song about overcoming adversity and pushing through the hard times until those problems seem like minor hurdles.
Bottom of the Barrel is a fairly consistent album in terms of quality. It’s a collection of songs by a band who know how to play their instruments and whilst the songwriting may use the tried and tested tropes such as on the bluesy “Only Until I Die”, it’s going to appeal to fans of this brand of rock. Dirty Moonshine aren’t about to reinvent the wheel and it seems they’re comfortable to not attempt it, instead choosing to shrug on that battle-weary leather jacket, the smell of stale beer and cigarettes clinging to it rather than the shiny new one from the shop with the rich odour of new leather.
Whilst from beginning to end, the quality doesn’t drop from a sonic standpoint, once it hits the halfway point, the songs become largely unremarkable. The latter half of the songs are good in their own right but they don’t have the heft present in the first half. “Bundy Love” brings it back and actually feels like a perfect closer to the album – there’s a number of albums which have worked excellently by ending them on a tame note rather than a bang. As such, “Strangest of Colours” feels like the bonus track you’d get from buying from certain places and usually, these songs weren’t the finest from the bunch and thus never got a coveted spot on the album itself and relegated.
Bottom of the Barrel isn’t a bad album, far from it. There’s not a bad track on it, it just suffers from some songs being better than others. Dirty Moonshine are going to appeal to hard rock fans who know what they like. It may seem like a passion project for the members but they’ve been canny enough to create a sound that people, decades later, still want to hear.
Bottom of the Barrel is out now