The name of this band describes perfectly what they are – a calculated and a very targeted answer to the demands of the market starved of traditional British blues rock. The product that the Answer supply to their customers is top quality, extremely well-researched and designed for easy consumption by those who would like to experience bands like Free and early Led Zeppelin first-hand, but for obvious reasons can’t.
The reason why the Answer don’t incorporate any new, fresh or original ideas into their music is because their goal isn’t originality, but tradition, pure and uncontaminated. What this band specialises in is a high quality detailed replication of classic acts that don’t exist anymore, a kind of Madame Tussaud’s waxwork museum of British blues rock, with all superficial appearances captured perfectly, but with no life or purpose of their own beyond surface imitation.
On the night the band started their set with ‘Into the Gutter’, an energetic, hard-hitting number that would sound convincing if only the riff wasn’t so blatantly lifted from Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ – at least the drummer wasn’t wearing a Black Sabbath t-shirt like he used to do in the past. Singer Cormac Neeson immediately proved that he can emulate perfectly all classic vocalists of British blues rock from Paul Rogers to young Robert Plant, and that the punters didn’t spend their hard-earned cash on some cheap imitation. The imitation was first-class, at least vocally, and I guess the Answer could have easily charged 25 quid instead of 14 for a ticket if only Cormac was a classier frontman with some fluent moves in place of his contrived and slightly heavy-on-the-eye stage mannerisms.
Guitarist Paul Mahon, by contrast, was a prettier sight than a year ago when I saw the band last play, now that he has learnt the rudiments of stage movement. Compared to zero stage presence and a forbidding facial expression that he had a year ago, he now has the same forbidding expression but some passable moves to brighten up his act, which probably came to him after spending a few months on the road with Roadstar, one band these days that can put up a spectacular stage show if anything else.
During the next song, ‘Never Too Late’ the band returned with the same retro rootsy story, Neeson wailing his way around an overwrought piece of blues rock, amping up every single note he had to sing, going for a continuous overkill and consequently ending up with no latitude of emotion. His exaggerated singing brought the song to the point where it sounded so overworked that it lost any depth that was originally intended and stopped being believable.
Neeson is a singer who knows little about nuances or shades of expression, or even about contrasts of polarities. You would imagine that since he places such high value on imitation, he could dig deeper and learn how to be versatile from his heroes Plant and Rogers, but instead, for some unexplicable reason, he chooses to focus on imitating a small slice of their sonic and emotional spectrum. Still, if there is anything that Cormac needs more badly than anything else, it is to invent his own means of expression. Tonight’s set, however, offered no hope of that.
The standout ‘Follow Me’ was as highlight of Mahon’s improved technique and showed that he now sounds more practiced, having finally gained confidence as well as some respectable speed. His solos, however, still strike as aimless, this guitarist having little to say about himself or about what goes on in his heart. This man still remains a total mystery as it is impossible to get any glimpse of character or personality from his playing, all in spite of a multitude of fast, blistering passages, as well as sustained, wailing notes that are supposed to reveal a player’s character more than anything else. It is unfortunate that in Mahon’s interpretation, technique, even when improved, still degenerates into an academic exercise.
The new song that the band played next, the one that is so new that it doesn’t have a name yet, proved to be the most clichéd stuff in the world and too close for comfort to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’.
Only imagination can animate the approach of this band, but this is exactly what the Answer are lacking, instead paying so much attention to form that it turns into a dogma that they dare not depart from. No creative artists, simply copyists at best, the Answer have spotted a market niche that they are determined to exploit it to the full while the demand lasts. They will never make as much money as their genius predecessors whose legacy they exploit and their songs will never make it into the Billboard hit parade, but they are a kind of band that will always gather enough retro-crazy fans to pay their utility bills.
If, having bravely struggled to the end of this review, you would like to ask where modern-day fans of the genre should turn to for some seriously exciting fresh and modern blues rock, I can recommend two absolutely awesome unsigned bands: White from Boston, Massachusetts, and Zenyth from Wales. The Mag has reviewed them both.
Guest article from Alyssa O.
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