Album Reviews
Band: Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics

Title: The Man With Stars On His Knees

Label: Listenable Records

I saw this band back in October 2018 as one of the support acts for the ever popular Bad Touch, and to be honest I had no idea who they were and on evidence of most of their show, how to take them, as Aaron Buchanan himself was such a handful to watch, it distracted me away from the music most of the time. If you can imagine a mixture of Freddie, Russell Mael (Sparks) and Brandon Flowers (Killers) on speed, then you may get my drift, especially when he left the band on stage, went and sat on the bar then helped himself to a swift pint, which had a few eyebrows raised amongst the group I was with, it has to be said! 

Still, I'd heard/seen enough to realise there was something about them that made them stand out, a crossover Revolution (Prince) in the Raspberry Beret era meets Hard Rockers, which is shown in droves on the opener, the short and moody 'Show Me What You're Made Of', led by the brain-busting drum pattern that is joined by the ear-shattering riffage 'n vocals which will get the listener rigid with shock, followed by Planet Rock fave 'All The Things you've Said And Done', a lush slice of anthemic, guitar-driven Hard Rock that has one of the best solos I've heard in yonks, Mr. B's vocals the dogs b,s throughout. I can't remember him with Heaven's Basement (sorry Aaron.x), but by jove, he's narf got a set of pipes on him!

'Dancin' Down Below' hits the Emo threshold at times, mainly due to certain sections on vocals and those powerful riffs, yet for most parts, it has also elements of 70's Glam Rock threading itself around the track, the lyrics very Freddie-ish if you don't mind me saying, provocative and slightly in yer face, but hey, this is Aaron and the Cult Classics, so get used to it! As if to be following the Old Nick theme, 'The Devil That Needs You' comes out of the traps like it's been there forever, and to say this is rather upbeat in it's tempo is like saying Big Hec wore rather large shoes! 

The power it gives off could light up a city for a month with just the guitars on their own as they pummel the song into submission (Laurie Buchanan & Tom McCarthy), as well as some mean engine room shenanigans on drums 'n bass to bolster that HUGE sound (Paul White & Mart Trail), and it's a wonder Mr.B can be heard at all, but with a voice like that, it would be narf hard to keep it under wraps for long. 'Journey Out Of Here' instantly reminds me of 30 Seconds To Mars' with the gang-like harmony/riffed intro, the vocals very gentle to start with, low-key in it's delivery before the tempo builds up to a crescendo of other-worldly goings-on with more angelic-styled harmonies and mournful solos that float around....grooooovy dudes!

The title track, for me, shows just what a great singer Aaron is, whether he tackles the softer side of his range or the powerful edge he does with ease, both shown with genuine feeling, all built round either a sole picked guitar, simple drumming and subtle bass, or driving through into the Brian May-alike operatic guitar section, which makes me think this style of song could easily be the type that could  end up on a modern day ;A Night At...if Queen were ever to go there! You're taken down the Heavy Blues/Rock alley that Graveyard,Vintage Caravan and Kadavar have taken over the last few years on 'A God Is No Friend', the sludgy, cranium-crunching sound shouldn't really work here, but the band pull it off, just, mind you, the psychedelic vibe probably helping out as a bonus, before the band jump straight into more accessible Hard Rocker 'Left me For Dead', where the whole group just turn it up to 11, taking no nonsense on the way! 

As if to prove a point, early Sabbath raises it's demonic head on the uber- heavy, brain-shaking monster 'Mind Of A Mute', Aaron sounding if he's kick you in the balls 'n punch you in the gut at the same time, he sounds so.....ooh, I could wrestle an Action Man, yeah..that angry, only for the band to revert to that Queen sound on 'Morals', everything about this song could be taken from said band, the whimsical flick of the hand vocals, sporadic building of the tempo at will and those multi-tracked harmonies, all within that band's territory.

There are 2 exclusive studio bonus tracks to enjoy here, the first is a happy-go-lucky, pacey 'whoa,whoad' 'Fire In The Fields Of Mayhem', that again has a slight screechy Emo-type chorus to it, though the solo that rips in makes amends for that, but be prepared for off-kilter, slightly Proggy 'Undertow', especially if you're just learning how to play the drums, as this will have you scratching your head as you try to get round the sequence White is using...as I said, off-kilter to say the least, but it makes the final track an interesting one. Overall, this is a damn good album, and proves to me especially that your first judgment of a band can be oh so wrong. (Rock and!) Roll on album no.2 !!

Review by: Robb Baldwin

 

Tracklisting:

1.  Show Me What You're Made Of
2.  All The Things You've Said And Done
3.  Dancin' Down Below
4.  The Devil That Needs You
5.  Journey Out Of Here
6.  The Man With Stars On His Knees
7. A God Is No Friend
8.  Left Me For Dead
9.  Mind Of A Mule
10.  Morale
11. Fire In The Fields Of Mayhem *
12. Undertow 
*exclusive studio bonus tracks 

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