FAMOUS UNDERGROUND – Famous Underground (2013)
Canadian rockers FAMOUS UNDERGROUND and their debut CD marks the return of ex- Slik Toxik frontman Nick Walsh, a band soaked in the Sunset Strip hard rock essences with plenty of additional and varied metallic coaxing. The group even received a Juno Award (Canuck Grammy) in 1993 but due the suffocating grip of grunge they disbanded two years after.
Listening to their engaging and energy fuelled debut self-titled album, it is easy to imagine Famous Underground following suit. Consisting of thirteen inventive and accomplished slices of muscular hard rock, the album offers rebellion to its air and riotous enterprise to its body and though arguably it is not climbing over fences into new pastures of sound it is a constantly satisfying and incendiary encounter.
Three years ago Walsh and long-time bassist/musical partner Laurie-Anne Green began working on songs seeded in the breath of their original band, 2011 seeing the pair starting Famous Underground and recruiting like-minded but variously inspired musicians to realise their vision.
The album could be characterized as late Eighties / early Nineties hard rock still picking up on the late LA sleazy side of things with melody and edge, merging it with a modern sound plus a slightly dark vibe.
Opening track “Wasteland” instantly stands toe to toe with the listener, staring them down as attitude drenched riffs snarl and prey on the ear with contagious potency and craft. The vocals of Walsh scowl and prowl over the melodic flames and within the ensnaring web of riffs.
It is an impressive start soon matched by the following “Overdrive”, another predatory snarl of a song with the bass of Green deliciously laying down a carnivorous temptation behind the groovy strikes of guitar and expression-fuelled vocals. There is a familiarity to both songs and a modern style but equally they hold their own individual presence.
However, apart from these modernized opening pair of tracks, Walsh / Co. doesn’t stray far from their early roots for the most part.
You hear this in the midtempo ’80s Californian anthem “On Broken Wings” and the super power ballad “Forever And A Day” (Poison-like) which reach for that large arena rock sound. Other rockers go for the same path like the speedy and catchy “Bullet Train”, the heavy and bittersweet “Love Stands Still”, and the LA Guns inspired “Hell To Pay”.
Famous Underground flirts again with modernity on “Dead Weight” and “Necropolis”, chosen as single/video with obvious radio intentions, but personally I think the band works better in their traditional style which fortunately dominates this recording.
The groovy, sleazy “Mommy Is A Junkie” and the sinister melody of “Wheel Of Misfortune” recalls Lynch Mob’s darker side, the latter with a stirring, intensively riff-fuelled line, while the Skid Row-esque “Love Stands Still” is one of the most driving songs on the CD featuring a hot solo as well.
Throughout Walsh is steady, clearly still having the vocal chops to carry every song. The album also includes two bonus tracks: an unplugged version of “Dead Weight” which is actually better than the original, and an alternate version of “On Broken Wings” adorned with nice harmony vocals and some strings in the background.
“Famous Underground” is a well balanced album resurrecting the traditional Californian styled hard rock blended with some new school vibe: wicked chops, attitude-laden vocals and solid rhythms. It’s just plain good hard rock music from those who have ‘been there, done that’.
Walsh-produced and nicely mixed and mastered by Darius Szczepaniak (The Black Crowes), these songs allow everyone’s skills to shine. From Walsh’s gritty, dynamic, sandpaper-edge vocal to what sounds like a triple guitar attack (Walsh plus Rick Corvese and Darren Boyd on some tunes), through Desche Sparboom‘s rumbling drums to the emphatic bass guitar licks of Laurie-Anne Green, the band brings us their brand of heavy-hitting, rifftastic hard rock. To hammer home their theme that they aren’t a one-trick hard rockin’ pony, the acoustic renditions at the end of the album are well-arranged and delivered with an uncommon conviction.
It’s not easy bring to the table the good ol’ traditional Sunset Strip style without sounding repetitive, and “Famous Underground” succeeded for the most part infusing to their recipe a fresh modern edge.
01 – Wasteland
02 – Overdrive
03 – Dead Weight
04 – Love Stands Still
05 – Forever And A Day
06 – Necropolis
07 – Wheel Of Misfortune
08 – Mommy Is A Junkie
09 – On Broken Wings
10 – Bullet Train
11 – Hell To Pay
12 – Dead Weight (Raw and Unplugged) [Bonus Track]
13 – On Broken Wings (Alt. Version) [Bonus Track]
Nick Walsh – lead and backing vocals, guitar
Laurie-Anne Green – bass, backing vocals
Rick Corvese – guitars, backing vocals
Darren Boyd – guitars, backing vocals
Desche Sparboom – drums
BUY IT !