Monday, November 9, 2015

ANY TROUBLE returns! SPAZ reviews the album PRESENT TENSE

Any Trouble is one of those bands that had everything going for them except luck.  Because, lets face it, the music game is all about luck.  No matter how much talent an artist has, they need to catch that big break that takes them to the next level.  In Any Trouble’s case, they had great songs, ace musicianship and a few close brushes with commercial success but they were never blessed by Lady Luck.  For 35 years, they’ve been beloved by those that discovered them somewhere along the way and rightly so. From their first two studio albums on Stiff Records (plus a live set as well) to their two albums for EMI, Any Trouble created quite a catalog of Folk-informed New Wave, Pub Rock Pop and Rock.  In Clive Gregson, they had an exceptional singer/songwriter who was oft compared to one Elvis Costello but was far less angry and more down to earth. Their singles were delectable slices of greatness and their albums were packed with even more tasty aural treats.  Even their keyboard-heavy self-titled 1983 album on EMI is chock full of great tunes, one of which is “Touch & Go”, the biggest non-hit of their career (oddly enough, that is the only Any Trouble album unavailable on CD!). After the ultra-magnificent fourth album- Wrong End Of The Race - in ’84, the band split up and Gregson pursued a solo career as well as working with Richard Thompson and vocalist Christine Collister. A critical favorite from the get-go, Gregson has continued making great solo albums but left the Pop/Rock world behind and swam comfortably in Folk waters for many a year. Surprisingly, Any Trouble reunited in 2007 for the album Life In Reverse, a return to the golden days of their Stiff recordings. Ironically enough, the album was released on the briefly re-animated Stiff Records label! Gregson was joined by the most excellent Chris Parks on guitar (he was on the first two albums), Martin Hughes on drums (he was on the 2nd album) and new member Mark Griffiths on bass. After that reunion, things went quiet in the AT camp again. It seemed like we had seen the last of Any Trouble…

Thankfully, eight years later, the band has re-emerged with the most excellent Present Tense, an 18 track opus that finds the band more relaxed than ever before.  No longer bothered with trying to create a massive hit single and rake in the dough, Present Tense feels like the most honest and down to earth Any Trouble album yet. The songs on the album may not be as frantic and direct as they were 35 years ago but they still convey the same passion wrapped in hook-filled melodies. Most of the tracks are acoustic-based rather than full on electric so that adds a bit of warmth to the album as well.  Add in a Motown beat here, some handclaps there and some great guitar leads and you’ve got a set of outstanding Any Trouble tunes. This is a band fully aware that they are not young kids anymore and they embrace their maturity. Songs like “Glen Campbell” (the first single), “Rocking Horse,” “She’s Not Like All The Other Girls,” and “Learning How To Lose” are right up there with the best Any Trouble recordings… in fact, the whole album is a real treat. For this writer, the only misstep is “Great Big City,” a song I still can’t ‘connect’ with even after a dozen listens. Most of the songs are certainly a band effort although there are a few that sound like the more upbeat moments on a Gregson solo album (that is far from a complaint, mind you!). And did I mention that the album has 18 tracks?  That's damn near a double LP release!

All in all, Present Tense is more than a great return for a sadly overlooked band, it is proof that there is plenty of life in them yet! 

P.S. I haven't done any research as of yet, but I'm pretty damn certain that the song "Glen Campbell" was inspired by the fact that Glen Campbell recorded a song called "Any Trouble" on his Ghost On The Canvas album! 

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