|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Caleb Keiter|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 34:06|
Guitarist Cliff Powell (a.k.a. Cliffy Huntington) got his start in the mid-nineties with the Ramones influences punk rock band The Huntingtons. Parting ways with The Huntingtons in 2001, “Cliffy” joined The Stivs later the same year, a Portland, Oregon based unit that merged elements of rock and roll and punk. The Stivs went on to fall apart in early 2006 at which point Cliffy developed a vision to form his first evangelistic band. The end result was Main Line Riders. A group originating from Houston, Texas, Main Line Riders put together its initial line up in 2006 and, after writing and rehearsing over the next year, recorded its full length debut, Shot In The Dark. The album was shopped around to several labels until the band settled on Retroactive Records, which released it in the fall of 2007.
What Main Line Riders delivers on Shot In The Dark is a throwback sound to the eighties, a decade in which “hair metal” and “glam” – and all the layered choruses and hooks, hooks and more hooks inherit to the era – ruled supreme. Specifically, the guys give us a late eighties sunset strip sleaze style of hard rock inviting comparison to early LA Guns, Faster Pussycat, Guns N’ Roses, Junkyard, Hanoi Rocks, Kix and at times even AC/DC. On the Christian side of the fence, the only band to approach this might be Bombs Over Broadway era Squad 5-O, although fans of X-Sinner, Guardian (with Jamie Rowe on lead vocals), early 90s Bride and Rage Of Angels should find Main Line Riders to appeal to their taste.
What stands out most about Main Line Riders is its youthful and infectious energy. Shot In The Dark, for example, is built upon a foundation of up-tempo hard rockers such as “Ride The Main Line”, “One Way Ticket To Love”, the aptly entitled “Pack Up Your Blues” and “Time To Put The Hammer Down” (one of the heavier pieces here). If an abundance of radio friendly hooks happens to be your cup of tea, then look no further than “Speed Queen” (a real raucous track), “Thrown To The Bones”, the catchy “Walk Alone” and mid-tempo muscle of “We Are The Ready Ones”. When the band chooses to lighten up on the mood, on the other hand, it can also deliver a very fine ballad in “Here I Am”. Closing out the album is one of its treats, a cover of the old Junkyard tune “Shot In The Dark” (from the bands 1989 self-titled debut).
Lead vocalist Mike Mayhem brings just the right amount of sass flavored attitude with his gritty, mid-octave vocal style (an element which perfectly complements the “metal swagger” exuded by this brazen five piece unit). Joining Mike is the guitar team of Cliffy and Blackway. The two adorn the full length of the album with their staunch and energy-laden riffs, while Cliffy lead work proves to be of the gut-level and bluesy variety- something he best demonstrates on “Put The Hammer Down”, “One Way Ticket To Love” and “Pack Up Your Blues”. Tight but driving would be the best way to describe the rhythm section of bassist PJ and drummer Josho.
Production values, capably handled by Caleb Keiter, come across on the crisp and clean side of things.
The album gets underway with three top of the line hard rockers in “Ride The Main Line”, “One Way Ticket To Love” and “Throwin’ Bones To The Wolves”.
“Ride The Main Line” begins, appropriately, to the sound of a train barreling down the tracks. Once the rhythm guitar takes over, the song moves forward to a plethora of up-tempo momentum only to erupt for a chorus of the non-stop and hook filled variety. “Ride The Main Line” talks about getting on the correct path of life:
Fire's lit, the coals are burnin'
Full steam takin' us away
We got what you been searchin'
But you got to ride this train
You know I was just like you are
Wastin' time just to get me high
“One Way Ticket To Love” starts to a blend of hammering guitar riffs and pummeling drums. The song maintains the bottom heavy demeanor throughout its first verse, not culminating until achieving a lively chorus with the allure to pull you in and refuse to let go. Cliffy adds to the ardent scene with a stretch of gritty lead work.
A pounding rhythm guitar also initiates “Throwin’ Bones To The Wolves”. The song puts in place an energetic environment its remaining distance, amalgamating a catchy chorus with a momentous rhythm guitar sound the likes of AC/DC and X-Sinner are best known for. You have to enjoy the snap and snarl Mike Mayhem adds to his vocal delivery as well. Finding peace of mind is the subject matter here:
I was a restless dog
You were a wanderin' song
We was too far gone
Gettin' lost in the streets
Another cause for the city police
Take time to find your piece of mind
Cuz you sure won't get it for free
Beatin' on your doors
Breakin' down your walls
Throwin' bones to the wolves
“Here I Am”, the albums lone ballad, opens acoustically, drifting through its first verse and chorus prior to picking up in pace as the rhythm guitar steps forward. Moving ahead at the faster tempo, the song repeats its emotionally charged chorus in the more determined manner. A bluesy guitar solo is added to a track which can best be described as a good old fashioned love song:
I love the taste of your lips
I still remember our first kiss
It was a long time ago
But it seems like yesterday
When I said i love you
You know I meant forever
Hold me close now, baby
Here I am
Immediately kicking in at an upbeat tempo, “Speed Queen” rollicks through its first verse in furious fashion to a storm of rhythm guitar. After evening out, the song moves on to an infectious chorus that comes across near commercial in capacity. If I were to choose one song from the album to play on the radio “Speed Queen” would be it.
“Pack Up Your Blues” represents another song standing out with its up-tempo initiative. A three minute assault of choppy riffs and sledgehammer drums, this one takes a decisive chorus and backs it with the all out raw energy and exuberance the band brings to the table. Very well done spirited guitar solo from Cliffy as well.
“Walk Alone” fades in to a drum solo before the rhythm guitar establishes itself fixed and firm. The song proceeds to take off with an excess of resolve, pummeling through its forceful first verse and the tempestuous chorus that follows. Tenacious is the overall feeling I get here, particularly when considering, again, the bands energetic performance and the non-stop hook action. “Walk Alone” deals with an individual who chooses to make their own way:
With visions of redemption
I walk against the crowd
Feelin' bad is just a new sensation
Bet your bottom dollar
It cuts like a knife
All dressed up, I got nowhere to go, but
I walk alone
Chained to this stone now
In this small town
I walk alone
Must I live my days in these concrete ways
Several seconds of open air rhythm guitar introduces “Put The Hammer Down” before it kicks into high gear. A bottom heavy feel is resonated as the song plows ahead, not culminating until reaching a catchy but driving chorus shored up by a trace of vocal harmonies. More fluid soloing from Cliffy (some of the albums best). “Put The Hammer Down” deals with leaving the past behind:
Hear the rollin' thunder
See the pourin' rain
Feel the rumblin' motor
but I don't feel no pain
I never wanted to be president
I never wanna be a businessman
I never wanna do it your way
I'm comin' on like a hurricane
Time to put the hammer down
Rollin' down this dusty road
Sick of this old filthy town
Need no one to share the load
“We Are The Ready Ones”, the longest track here at 5:36, embarks as a heavy duty rhythm guitar stands in support of Mike Mayhem’s spoken word delivery. Transitioning to a few seconds of melodic guitar harmony, the song ambles at a gutsy mid-tempo clip before gaining impetus for a flowing chorus interwoven with a fixed swell of rhythm guitar.
As previously mentioned, “Shot In The Dark” was originally recorded by the LA strip band Junkyard. The song starts to an accompanying audience track before taking off to a screaming rhythm guitar. Pulsating through its first verse, “Shot In The Dark” creates a vigorous setting for a chorus talking about knowing when to make a brand new start:
It’s just one more shot in the dark
And I'm tryin', tryin' to find my mark
And I lie, I swear to God I'll make a brand new start
And I lied too many times about my brand new start
But it's just one more shot in the dark
Blackway's tight as a nail work on lead guitar helps close the album in very fine fashion.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Ride The Main Line” (3:13), “One Way Ticket To Love” (3:37), “Throwin’ Bones To The Wolves” (3:11), “Here I Am” (3:03), “Speed Queen” (2:44), “Pack Up Your Blues” (2:52), “Walk Alone” (2:44), “Put The Hammer Down” (3:13), “We Are The Ready Ones” (5:36), “Shot In The Dark” (3:53)
Mike Mayhem – Lead Vocals
Cliffy – Guitars
Blackkway – Guitars
PJ – Bass
Josho - Drums