The standard here, as usual, is high quality song, performances and production.
While many fans feared 2009's 'Bang!' might have been the final studio album from the popular British band Thunder, their fears were unfounded when the group released 'Wonder Days' in 2015, a record so well received, it became their first top ten album since 1995's 'Behind Closed Doors'. With renewed impetus, the group have now released another new record, entitled 'Rip It Up'.
The usual quartet of Luke Morley on guitar, Chris Childs on bass, Ben Matthews on guitar and keyboards and Harry James on drums lock together for the opener 'No One Gets Out Alive', an immediate pounding Thunder firecracker with distinctive vocalist Danny Bowes sounding as majestic as ever. The title track offers more of the same, soulful vocals over Classic Rock riffing and booming percussion, while 'She Likes The Cocaine' employs a wah-wah pedal to infectious effect.
Thunder have always been skilled in the art of crafting and delivering ballads, and 'Right From The Start' sees acoustic guitars underpinning Bowes superb voice, while the foot tapper 'Shakedown' is a great pre-cursor to the more mid-paced 'Heartbreak Hurricane'.
The band aren't afraid to stretch out a little either, with the Blues groove of 'In Another Life' proving particularly effective. Another curveball is the dueling piano and guitar lines of 'The Chosen One' which has a great chorus and a break that channels a Soul and Funk vibe similar to Isaac Hayes' classic 'Theme From Shaft'.
The pulsating 'The Enemy Inside' is another hard hitting Rock effort, while 'Tumbling Down' brings a 'Pinball Wizard' feel to the intro before a rolling, dirty riff from Morley sets things off in a different direction. The album closer 'There's Always A Loser' is another Thunder ballad, but with an interesting quirk of some massive, double tracked drums to give it a huge rhythm sound.
Inevitably people will ask if 'Rip It Up' is better than 'Wonder Days' and my initial response is no, but bear in mind I did absolutely love that album. This one I've found has really grown on me, some of the songs that weren't as immediate have really started to sink in on repeated plays. Anyone who follows the group know Thunder are a band who seldom release filler tracks, so the standard here, as usual, is high quality song, performances and production.
On that note, it should be noted that the album is available from the band's website www.thunderonline.com in various bundles. As well as a vinyl pressing and even a cassette release, there is also a website exclusive EP called 'Broken Mirror', which adds four additional tracks taken from the 'Rip It Up' sessions. Each one is of an equal standard to the parent album's material – 'Blue Eyed Girl' in particular really caught my ears, so that is worth shelling out for. There is also the option to include 'Live At The 100 Club', a fourteen track double live album featuring several live tracks from 'Wonder Days' plus many old favourites like 'Backstreet Symphony' and 'Love Walked In'. Mixed by Chris Childs, the live album sounds great and has been left pretty much raw, giving you a very close approximation to actually being there.
There are many various bundle options, but the pick for me is the 'Deluxe 3 x CD and EP' set where you get 'Rip It Up', 'Broken Mirror' and 'Live At The 100 Club' for just £20.00! That's staggering value and the EP can't be sourced anywhere else – digital purchasers will only be able to buy the album and the '100 Club' show from sources like iTunes.
Whether it's better than 'Wonder Days' or not is a debate many a Thunder fan will likely engage in, but the fact of the matter is one of the UK's classic bands has just released another strong addition to their back catalogue, and really pushed the boat out in terms of extras. Luke Morley said the band want the fans to feel they will get their value for money, and whichever version of 'Rip It Up' they fork out for, I would say that's guaranteed. Long may they continue!
CLick HERE to read the interview with Thunder's Luke Morley