Peel off the wrapping, press eject, insert CD, press play, quietly utter to no-one in particular – “please don’t let this be shit”. Forty minutes later, press eject, put CD back in its sleeve and exclaim rather loudly – “well, that was a pleasant surprise!”.
The fact that this is the first Quo album since the sad passing of Rick Parfitt meant that Backbone had to be good, better than good even. And it is better than good, it’s a great album. Naysayers have been suggesting that without Rick, it shouldn’t really be called Status Quo; bollocks, of course it’s Status Quo. But since Francis Rossi doesn’t have enough middle fingers to respond to them all, he’s let the music do the talking, and the end result is the strongest Quo album in some years now. Perhaps some people need to be reminded of certain Quo misfires over the decades? Albums such as Ain’t Complaining, Perfect Remedy and Thirsty Work perhaps?
Listen to the heads-down boogie of “Cut Me Some Slack” and the chugging guitars on “Falling Off The World”, both of which display all the “classic” Quo traits. Same with the soft shuffle of opening track “Waiting For A Woman”, which is similar to the Quo nugget “In My Chair”, less of a blues influence, but similar in pacing. Something a bit more uptempo for the weekend sir? Then try on “Liberty Lane” for size, or try resisting bobbing one’s head to “I Wanna Run Away With You”, nope can’t be done. Backbone has some great tunes on it, some which you might not expect on a Status Quo album. “Better Take Care”, for instance, drinks from the same well as Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama”, the same laid-back, simple approach that works surprisingly well.
Backbone (Quo’s 33rd studio album, no less!) is very much a band effort. Drummer Leon Cave wrote “Falling Off The World”, Richie Malone (who also has the thankless task of standing in Parfitt’s spot each night) came up with the modernised “Get Out Of My Head”, long-time bassist Rhino Edwards has a handful of co-writing credits, as does Quo mainstay Andrew Bown. This line-up already have 130 shows together under their belts, a solid unit it would seem, propelled forward by the youthful energy of Cave and Malone.
It’s easy to imagine Francis Rossi sitting back in the studio, with a smug grin on his face, as the finished product booms out of the speakers. Well played sir, well played.
Backbone is available September 6th on earMUSIC