Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
It seems like yesterday when The Quireboys burst onto the scene with their debut album, their take on the rolling, rambunctious rock ‘n’ roll favoured by the Stones and Faces immediately winning the hearts and minds of rock fans far and wide.
To celebrate its 30th birthday, the band have revisited the release, re-recording and retooling it to make it brighter, sharper and livelier than ever.
Whilst some people balk at the practice at doing this, feeling that new versions of classic albums are a redundant exercise, this new version of ‘A Bit Of What You Fancy’ sounds sonically superior to the 1990 release and yet still holds the same street fighting thrill and dirt.
A lot of this success is due to the current line-up of the band being arguably their best yet, as the twin guitars of Guy Griffin and Paul Guerin lock together like a well oiled machine, keys player Keith Weir adds his own quicksilver magic and totemic frontman Spike sounds just as raw and honest as he always has.
Years on the road, constantly touring, have seen the band become a ferocious and formidable live act, never failing to bring the party with them, irrespective of whether it’s a club show or in front of thousands at a festival.
Whilst they’ve always been a constantly productive act, bringing out a string of twelve strong albums, it’s still the debut that people remember above all else, that collection of songs stamping their brand into the collective psyche.
Live favourite ‘7 O’Clock’ is still a classic opener, its gritty good time rock ‘n’ roll full of fun and attitude. From the sparkling piano intro, through to the punch of the guitars and the whisky soaked joyful roar of the vocals, here was an invitation to the best knees up in town as the beer practically flows out of the speakers and the Jack and Coke slides down like a kiss.
If ever a song was to encapsulate all that’s great about The Quireboys, this would be it and the following ‘Man On The Loose’ cements that, expanding the sound as they take flight. With some terrific backing vocals, there’s a real feel of the Stones ‘Gimme Shelter’ to the track, Spike’s heroes given a respectful nod as the young contenders snap at their heels.
Listening closer, this retooled take on the album reveals extra layers and tracks like ‘Whippin’ Boy’ shimmers with class and brio that can be especially appreciated in headphones. ‘Sex Party’ is as lascivious and anthemic as ever, the band switching gear somewhat with the Faces style rocking ballad of ‘Sweet Mary Anne’ before the heavy hitting ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’ brings full-on heartbreak.
Coming into his own, Spike wrings every tear from the song in a subtle and nuanced performance that eschews manipulative mawkishness as female backing vocals, keys and the tasteful guitarwork of Griffin and Guerin delicately swell underneath. A tip of the hat too to rhythm section of Nick Malling and Dave McClusky, their tight but loose work driving the whole of the album along with an assured confidence and rock solid groove.
The second half kicks off with a bang as ‘Hey You’ takes no prisoners, its slides and riffs on the six stringers making it irresistible as the band power through this call to arms that’s become another core of their set to this day.
‘Misled’ is another fine example of their swaggering and cocksure style, Weir’s keys earning centre stage and bringing a real barroom feel, the full-on rocker ‘Long Time Coming’ keeping the festivities going. Throughout, the quality of the writing is consistently high, the band wanting to fill their first long player with all killer, no filler.
Certainly, the best production and performances in the world can’t hide bad songs but that certainly isn’t the case here with tracks like ‘Roses And Rings’ still an oft played fan favourite and always likely to remain so.
It’s just down to ‘There She Goes Again’ and ‘Take Me Home’ to seal the deal, their good time vibe and unbridled spirit bringing the release to its conclusion with a mix of toughness and fire tempered with heart and soul. Whilst major touring plans had been thwarted due to the pandemic, The Quireboys have obviously poured their all into this recording, reconnecting with not just the past but their love of the material and that primal instinct to play some of the finest bare knuckle, working class and just outright entertaining rock music the country has produced.
Exuberant, exciting and effortlessly cool, ‘A Bit Of What You Fancy’ stands as a testament to the power of amplification and deserves a place in every self-respecting rockers home. Irrespective of whether you go for the original recording or this new one, one truth emphatically remains: The Quireboys ARE rock ‘n’ roll.