Federal Charm in the driving seat on Passenger

So you think you know Federal Charm? Well, think again… with a new vocalist, Tom Guyer, and drummer Josh Zahler in tow they are a revitalized outfit on this latest, third album. Don’t get me wrong, the last two albums were good, but this one has a harder, heavier edge and a more cohesive and complete feel about it. I’m sure the ‘new blood’ helped, as did a new producer John Simms. In Paul Bowes words, Simms “ commands an invaluable ability to locate and add that missing ingredient to make a song stand out from the crowd”. (Don’t forget to check out the great interview by Liz with Paul Bowe, where he discusses the new album, on the Bluesdoodles Interview page). There will also be some Rival Sons comparisons when Tom’s vocals are first heard but for me at least, he has less of a reliance on the higher register and is a more rounded, more interpretative vocalist.

Lead off track, Swing Sinner, lays down the ground rules… a riff of invention and weight, with plenty of room for new drummer Josh to shine and for Tom to prove his worth. A short but very good solo expands the sound, as does the almost buried in the mix piano. The new single, Choke, is next with its verses unaccompanied and the riff wrapping around them: the solo and bridge are cleverly fitted into a structure reminiscent of the style epitomized by early rockers such as Vengeance. Emerald Haze is all about creating an atmosphere to reflect that the titular emerald is the green of jealousy. The least immediate of the tracks, it still has power but tends to be a bit repetitive. Death Rattle opens with an inventive drum pattern before the bass reinforces it and the guitars bring in a spaced texture. The lyrics voice the band’s concern over music venues closing down and being replaced by shops and flats at the expense of music’s lifeblood. The outro is another clever piece of atmosphere creation as the quiet, echo guitar rules over a rare bass string and keyboards layered on top conjure the dying echoes of these venues. Nowhere Is Home has the best bass line to be put on tape this year! Although slightly pedestrian in pace, the wealth of aural enigmas keep you hooked throughout and the slide solo completes this superb track. Get Through has a Thunderesque feel about it as Paul weaves picked guitar between the heavier, chorded riff. The solo is an object lesson for shredders everywhere…it is rarely necessary, when you get a series of notes, with gaps, that tell a story effectively! Concrete Creature starts of deliciously with slide acoustic and a stompbox effect, before the band cut in aand use the same melody but seriously heavied up. The acoustic keeps reappearing to put light into the shade. The lyrics are close to my heart too as they warn of the destruction of nature and humanity’s descent into (anti)social media and “a vacuous gossip driven diet of reality TV shows”.  Can’t Rule Me uses varying time signatures with the bass and drums refusing to be predictable. The bridge section is illustrative of the way the band builds songs rather than play them. Halo has a great solo with an almost atonal approach that simply works, particularly over the brilliant bass and drums. The chorus is destined to be a feature of their forthcoming live appearances. Speak out has a message about the governments’ failings over the NHS and education system: politic aside, this is another staccato pacy rock song with an off-key solo that resonates with the backing. Final track, Parting Words, is the first true blues: bass and drums provide a solid basis for the build to the main riff that is sparse in notes, but full in effect. This one, in its build and vocal, reminds me of The Tygers at their peak on The Cage. That is a compliment.

So, in my humble, the band has improved dramatically with this new album. It is full of power, depth and emotion combined with imagination and variety and lifts them above the rest of their ‘generation’. If you want your rock heavy, blues-infused and immaculately played…look no further than Passenger.

TENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track listing;

  1. Swing Sinner
  2. Choke
  3. Emerald Haze
  4. Death Rattle
  5. Nowhere Is Home
  6. Get Through
  7. Concrete Creature
  8. Can’t Rule Me
  9. Halo
  10. Speak Out
  11. Parting Words

 

Musicians:
Paul Bowe: Lead guitar
Tom Guyer: Vocals
LD Morawski: Bass
Josh Zahler: Drums
Kyle Ross: Guitar, Keyboards, vocals

 

Recorded at Willow Terrace Studios, Manchester

Produced by Federal Charm and John Simms

Check out Tour dates and ticket links HERE
Check out our latest conversation with Paul Bowe HERE

Federal Charm in the driving seat on Passenger

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