Review: The Bastard Sons – Smoke

By Kane Power (@El Heavio)

The new album ‘Smoke’, from York based band The Bastard Sons, starts exactly how you should start a rock n roll record; minimal intro, a rockin’ guitar riff and some spell-it-out gang chants to rival late 90’s thug-core legends Skarhead. Add some high-range screams á la The Bronx and you’ve got yourself one hell of an opening track. I was so encouraged by this song, emphatically titled ‘The Bastard’, that it took the next two songs for my enthusiasm to fade, but fade it did as the rest of the album descended into standard rock predictability.

‘Smoke’ is a southern American tainted rock-metal regurgitation, an approximate copy of a legion of bands peddling the same mediocre “heavy rock” shit to jocks, teenagers and Uni bros for the past two decades. This album is a result of 20 years of stagnancy in rock, perpetuated and re-enforced by the ‘metal’ and alternative publications praising this lack of creativity, as they evidently have been doing to The Bastard Sons. I don’t feel like I need to explain exactly how it sounds, because honestly, you’ve heard it all before; thundering drums, bowel clenching bass, wailing guitars and rasping vocablah blah blah blah….

I understand from experience that it’s truly hard to innovate when conforming to a genre, which is why many bands write across multiple genres, taking a bit of this and a bit of that and hopefully appealing to both sets of fans. Innovation is what sets apart the truly great from the majority, which in turn inspires the majority to imitate the truly great. As for The Bastard Sons their imitation is largely unconvincing, straying closer to parody than a unique entry into the genre.

In the press release for Smoke, the debut album from The Bastard Sons, singer JJ Jackson talks about a song idea:

“This song is about not accepting truths just because you heard them on the news or read them in a paper, standing up for what you believe and, if needs be, kicking the man in the teeth and saying I won’t take your bullshit anymore.”

A great way to reflect that sentiment would be to apply it through lyrics and music even slightly original or slightly less banal, rather than pandering to specific genre stereotypes. As a result of this adherence to well-worn ideas and content, ‘Smoke’ fails to sound authentic or inspiring; the exact opposite of what I imagine The Bastard Sons set out to achieve.

There are some parts offering a glimpse into originality, like the vocal hook in stand-out track ‘A Lie Is A Lie’, reminding me of ‘In The Wake Of Determination’ era Story Of The Year. ‘Us vs Them’ shows some adventure, even if it’s over too fast, and ‘Scene(ic) Root(s)’ offers some creative chord changes, bringing welcome variation among an album composed predominantly of clichés.

‘Smoke’ sounds clean, The Bastard Sons play tight, and it’s obvious there is a decent band in there somewhere that have put in a fair bit of work. Hopefully they continue to challenge themselves and create music, and hopefully their music becomes more convincing as they rise to the challenge of separating themselves from the crowd.

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