(earMUSIC, out Fri 4 May 2018)
Reef, the four piece West Country band formed in the early nineties, never really got the respect they deserved from the general public. Across four albums from 1995’s Replenish to 2000’s Getaway they put together an impressive catalogue of blues-infused, Britpop rock, fronted by the wonderfully gravelly vocals of Gary Stringer. Naked, Yer Old, New Bird, Superhero and even Give Me Your Love from their Greatest Hits collection Together (released in 2003) all show the magic that the band could – and did – create. But alas, the music listening public embraced the mega-hit Place Your Hands and ignored the rest. Well, after 18 years since their last studio album, Reef are back. And while they might no longer have their sights on breaking into new markets, they’ll be hoping that old fans will flock back with glee at their return. Pity those fans.
Opening with title track Revelation, Reef explode back into existence with an AC/DC inspired, full-throttle rocker; think Let There Be Rock meets Whole Lotta Rosie. It’s fairly entertaining, but it hardly screams originality. If anything, you should just go and listen to AC/DC (or at worst, any of the other diet-version out there such as Airbourne or Jet). It’s a rip-off, plain and simple.
From here, the album takes its foot of the gas and slows to a plod. We are subjected to My Sweet Love featuring Sheryl Crow, a song so dull that it sounds like a B-side from the American. At the same time, Stinger appears to feel like the more he growls, the more contrast it’ll give the song and contrast is good right? Wrong – there’s no click between the vocal performances & the melody just drips with inoffensive blandness, an approach that the album decides to run with for the next few songs.
It’s not until the middle of the album that Revelation decides to fall back into the rock-n-roll riff-o-mania music that opened things. However, aside from Precious Metal, the riffs are dull & the lyrics – such as Just Feel Love’s “Walls keep on rising / Fire keeps on burning” – are early-teen poetry level at best.
It’s a shame that such an underappreciated band launch their comeback with such an under-worked piece. Three covers (two of which are carbon copies) pepper the track-listing, meaning that Reef have managed only nine original songs that they deem worthwhile in the near two decades since their last full-length effort. What’s even sadder is that these efforts are devoid of life & vitality – something which the band of old had in spades. The only true revelation here is that previous guitarist Kenwyn House must have been the band’s hidden gem, he’s the only original member who doesn’t appear (having been replaced by Jesse Wood in 2014), and consequently this is the band’s weakest effort by far. All in all, whilst the past might not hold much place for Reef, on the evidence provided here, the future is likely to hold even less.