Music is a fundamental tool for escapism and a healthy outlet for all kinds of raw emotions, not just for the fans but also for the musicians who’s literal life-force flows through their veins and exits their bodies through their torn and tattered vocals, and beaten and bruised finger tips. Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons’ second full-length release We’re the Bastards exhibits just that; bulldozing into the record with the title track, ‘We’re the Bastards’ is an autobiographical war cry that is instantly relatable with the opening lyric ‘music is medicine, music is therapy.’ Alongside ‘Riding Straight to Hell’s’ rebellion and attitude-laced chants of ‘set me free,’ the tracks’ anthemic choruses are begging for audience participation that will be a welcomed rush when live shows return.
Skilled solos are in abundance throughout the record from veteran guitarist Phil Campbell, the wisdom he’s gained from playing with Motörhead infiltrating into his kin with Todd Campbell on guitar, Tyla Campbell on bass, Dane Campbell on drums, and ex-Attack! Attack! (The welsh band that is, not the American electronicore band) vocalist Neil Starr riding at the helm. Complete with a rugged bass intro, ‘Son of a Gun’ and ‘Animals’ ooze the trademark Motörhead speed and ferocity in their verses that’ll undoubtedly appease old-school fans with a dash of double kick drums from Dane, whilst the modern and alternative vocals from Starr leaves the door wide open to welcome new comers.
‘Desert Song’ and ‘Born to Roam’ utilise harmonicas and southern riffs that channel the vibes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and, lyrically influenced by the touring and travelling lifestyle, conjure images of driving down a desert highway in a convertible Cadillac with nothing but the company of a beat-up guitar riding shotgun.
It wouldn’t be a rock ’n’ roll record without the signature youth hungry anti-authoritarian messages bleeding throughout the lyrical themes, as ‘Hate Machine’ and ‘Destroyed’ both deploy incessant balls-to-the-wall headbanging material. The riot-inciting ‘fuck yous’ on ‘Destroyed’ are all-encompassing, the frantic punk track coming to an almightily halt at only 2:18.
The diamond in the rough however is the closing track ‘Waves,’ the bands versatility accentuated with the slow groovy bass and bright clean guitars contrasting the weighty alien subject matter of depression and mental health. Starr’s lyrics invites poignant reflection; ‘the darkness comes in waves, and washes over me,’ and ‘maybe a bullet can clear my head, no regrets.’ Equivalent to a books cliff hanger, this fresh icy window leaves the door open to evolution and different directions, whilst the accelerated outro rounds off the jagged edges and brings the album full circle.
Certainly one of the most pleasing albums to come out of 2020 and a sigh of relief to the rock community, Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons have struck the vital balance in terms of following on from previous endeavours, and discovering their own refined sound on We’re the Bastards.