By Brian Tucker
Seven years between albums is a long time. Things change in just a few years – band members come and go, tastes alter or grow fickle, people get older. Even so, for a band staying true to simple but effective ideas often sustain longevity. That’s happened with rollicking hard rock and punk band Thunderlip, surviving ten years together making music essentially by not taking things too seriously.
Their new album Sunday Driving (out January 10th) finds the band highly energetic, having fun, and even exploring a little. For anyone familiar with them, rest assured, they haven’t lost any steam. They’ve made an album that sounds slightly different but delivers like shot through a gun. Save for brief slow spot in the middle, Sunday Driving is sonically about blasting down the highway, perhaps their most creative album thus far.
It follows up 2007’s The Prophecy, the band’s third album outside of a single release (“Pooler“) that was contributed to children’s benefit album. The playing here sounds more refined, more intense, even faster at times (like on “Black Glove”), and singer Chuck Krueger sounds better than ever. At the recent album release show at Ziggy’s the band was dynamite. Again, they were sounding better than ever and just as spirited.
New material was recorded intermittently. One song goes back many years from sessions to make an EP about Indiana Jones (sort of). Still, the material all sounds cohesive. With each album Thunderlip has maintained their hard driving energy and sense of humor while crafting memorable, individual tunes. They’ve grown along the way and without ever sounding bored with themselves.
Sunday Driving will surprise and impress at the same time. Fans will quickly embrace tracks like “Bad Things in Threes” and the boogie-laced “Dare of the Hog” which boasts a great chorus. The former opens the album like a thunderbolt of adrenaline, a smart choice signaling that a great album was underway. It’s followed by the frantic “Chutes and Ladders.” These are two songs that really soar, and also show the band’s abilities to craft high flying, fun material.
“The Temple of Dude” is from the remains of the years-old EP. A tongue in cheek nod to the 80s adventurer and displays the band’s knack to have fun with words and song titles (and a fun, frenzied chanting mid-chorus). On the song’s breakdown Krueger sings, “Make sure the staff is long enough baby! Got to be just right” and James Yopp’s guitar work runs wild and tribal. “Landslide Love” is a fast but groove-heavy tune that harkens back to old school glam metal and “No Good to be Good” has it toes in 80s metal as well.
Two acoustic numbers will stand out (“Moon over Majesty” is a short instrumental), not because Thunderlip and acoustic material are incongruous, but simply because it’s wholly unexpected. They sound great. “Punch this Pilot” is hypnotic, the guitar playing done with psychedelic fervor and allows for Krueger’s vocals to really shine.
Album closer “The Fire’s Hand,” a Deep Purple meets Ramones (and restless) track, sounds like the song to be found on the next album. Sonically it reflects a different side of Thunderlip, one a bit more polished and, well, catchy. If this were to be the last Thunderlip it’s not a bad way to go out. Hopefully that’s not to be, because its sounds like the band is just warming up.
Download or stream the album via Bandcamp or pick up a copy on gold vinyl (with download code) locally at Reggie’s Records, Yellow Dog Discs and Gravity Records.
Full album playlist: