It’s always tricky following up a career-defining album.
An artist or band has to stoke anticipation, temper expectations and,ultimately, release a new batch of songs out into the world without the ability to explain, defend and/or protect them any longer.
I can’t imagine the anxiety an artist feels not knowing how they will be received.
It’s no secret that I love Girls, Guns and Glory, the Boston-based band whose 2011 disc Sweet Nothings topped my Best Of list that year. Every track blended seamlessly to form a singular work that struck me and stuck with me in a way that few albums since have been able to do.
Well, Ward Hayden and the boys are back three years later with Good Luck, an album that is just as confident but completely different in all the best ways. Good Luck doesn’t reach into your chest immediately and grab your heart, not the way Sweet Nothings did, except on three of the new tracks – “UUU,” “C’Mon Honey” and “Rockin’ Chair Money.”
The biggest difference between the two albums is the experimental air that permeates Good Luck. It doesn’t have that same instant connection, but the rewards are greater once you spend a little more time with some of the songs. Two good examples, “Shake Like Jello,” a scorching rave-up that owes a debt to the great Jerry Lee Lewis, and “Built For Speed.” The former, I didn’t fully appreciate until the third or fourth listen. Now it’s on my list of must-hear songs if ever I see Girls, Guns and Glory in concert.
What is consistent, though, is Hayden’s signature, mournful emotion that rings true on the slower “It’s Your Choice” and “One of These Days.” You feel the sincerity in his voice, and the rest of the band backs him up in perfect step. Nowhere is this more true than on the lead single, and album opener, “All the Way Up to Heaven.”
Girls, Guns and Glory is a true original. They don’t have to mimic any other artist. They have a sound that’s all their own. But there are similarities to other bands that genre fans will appreciate. The up-tempo “Be Your Man” sounds like the best track The V-Roys never recorded. And “UUU,” my favorite song on the disc, is vintage The Refreshments.
It’s still early in 2014, and I have no idea if the boys will once again top my Best Of list this year, but I’m pretty confident that if not, Good Luck will definitely be near the top of my favorite works released this year, and I’m certain this disc will remain in my most-played queue for months to come. That’s why, to me, this is definitely Essential Listening.