Album Reviews
Band: American Tears

Title: Hard Core

Label: Escape Music

 

There are only a handful of keyboard players I know who've made their name in the music business over the years ... the late, great Jon Lord, Don Airey, Edgar Winter, Christine McVie, Rick Wakeman, and that owld wife from early 70's band Lieutenant Pigeon of 'Mouldy Old Dough' fame!  I must admit I've never heard of American Tears before (sorry chaps), so when I found out they are keyboard-orientated, I was intrigued as I'm a huge fan of the early 80's synth scene, and on seeing that this band first set about their business back in 1974, I was hoping to have my memories taken back to those innocent, bountiful days of enjoyful music ... and as 'Hard Core' took it's first mellow strides in, then I knew it was going to be different to say the least! For a kick off, Mark Mangold's domineering vocals are the highlight here, no matter how much pomp and ceremony on the keys is quite noticeable, which I must mention, the instruments on show on this album are ones that were only available in the 70's, so this will explain why the album has leaning towards that era in parts.

‘Carnivore' is such a track, the dancing keys almost impossible to keep up with in your head, think of the track 'Frankenstein' but played at a much faster pace, almost giving off an angry attitude as it speeds along, Mangold's drumming going off on it's own agenda, punching away for all it's worth, all ending up with the 'jam session' of all time. Extraordinary!  'Lost In Time' will have the Prog  crowd in their element, as the drum pattern and keys not only meander away on different routes whilst keeping in time, the vocal style is straight out of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, telling us that 'this is your life, mate' before reaching the car-crash of an ending.  Now if I'd just walked into the room as 'Fyre' had just begun, I'd have sworn that Sting was singing this song, the vocals are uncannily similar to said Geordie superstar and friend of the Earth bloke, aided on backing vocals by Jake E, and if my ears detected right, there's also a similarity to the 1960's mega hit 'Fire' by that crazy gadgy Arthur Brown in parts as well, mainly due to some 'borrowed' lyrics, if I can put it that way, not missing out on the jabbing keys which becomes an 'earworm' for the rest of the day!

The skip along beat to 'Smoke And Mirrors' might put an extra bounce in your step, but the smile you began to have due to this may just disappear as quickly when you really take notice of the harsh lyrics that Mangold at times spits out in disgust, before he introduces the atmospheric ballad 'The Ferryman', the echoing drums powering away as the glorious, heart-tugging vocals only increase the amount of hairs standing on the back of the neck ... then it's all gone in a flash, which is such a pity as this is the stand-out track on the album, but way too short, for me anyway.  Now we're talking!!  Here's the 80's moment I've been waiting for, and  'Nuclear' hits the spot like a ... missile, the popping synth-like keys on the intro very Kraftwerk meets Vangelis, joined by some mean 'n power housed drumming, giving the track it's moody, dark aura that Mangold will surely been looking for judging by the title, and he gets it in alarming droves, though that feeling isn't as forthcoming in the more instrumental-based Yes-styled romper 'Tear Gas'.  Holy Leerdammer Cheese, Batman, what's this ... American Tears does Coldplay??!! Yep, this is the 'poppiest' track on the album, and the first thing that came to mind was Chris Martin on the piano, with extra 'oomph' on the synth though, and the way the song winds down to an almost silent lull, only to build it's way back up is a joy to listen to, those hairs on the neck back up as if they've been given a shot of Viagra!

'Deplorable' begins as if you're in a church due to the Hammond Organ before it all goes Pete Tong and we're in Ibiza, 'big box-little boxing' it  that awful trance/dance keyboard style takes over and in all honesty, I don't know what Mangold is trying to put over on this track, there's nothing to take in but a mish-mash of noise, and all I can say, the title speaks for itself!  'My Sharona'! Aye, the snappy drummed intro to 'Bottoms Up' instantly transports you to 1979's one hit wonder by The Knack, not exactly the same, but very near it, then moving on to Deep Purple territory via the Hammond, which dominates the track for the rest of it's duration, so prepare yourself for a mainly instrumental 'song' again! The album comes to closing time via 'At Last', and I must say, it sounds like a theme tune to some 80's T.V. drama that would hit the charts because of the popularity of the show, all dancing, aural keys mixing it up together very pleasantly, thank you, very repetitive and...bland, no scathing lyrics in sight, no serious tub-thumping to write home about, just plain old ... 'Howards Way' 'til the end. Oh well, there you go, then, get the kettle on, Maud!

'Hard Core', as I said earlier, will delight Prog fans with it's bombastic, chopping and changing time keyboards that Mangold seems to be a master at here, the theme not even dark or aggressive enough to put them off, so go out and enjoy this keyboard rock band folks, it's an experience and a half.

 

Review by: Robb Baldwin

 

Tracklisting:

1.  Hard Core
2.  Carnivore
3.  Lost In Time
4.  Fyre
5.  Smoke And Mirrors
6.  The ferryman
7.  Nuclear
8.  Tear Gas
9.  Lords Of Light
10.  Deplorable 
11. Bottoms Up 
12. At Last

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