Overall Score: 8/10 Riffs: 8/10 Catchiness: 9/10 Originality: 7/10 Pros: Great riffs throughout | Stellar vocal performance Cons: Far too short
Just over a year on from the release of their debut album ‘Renegade’, former motorcycle racing world champion James Toseland and his eponymous band have returned with the follow-up EP ‘Hearts and Bones’.
Opening with the monstrous title track, ‘Hearts and Bones’ immediately draws you in with its catchy chorus and is perhaps the EP’s greatest moment – a ready-made radio single if anything. Toseland’s vocals evoke imagery of rock greats, and he comes across as a fusion of classic era Axl Rose and Myles Kennedy. Featuring some killer solos and a breakneck pace, it’s the perfect introduction to Toseland for newcomers and one that looks set to become a live staple for the band.
Backed with a pounding drum groove, second track ‘The Closer I Get’, is a slower-yet-groovier affair that just manages to stay clear of full-ballad territory. Most reminiscent of Buckcherry, it’s a far sleazier affair than expected – guitarists Zurab Melua and Ed Bramford channeling the classic 80s sleaze of greats like Aerosmith with effortless ease. Also most prominent in this track is the fairly impressive vocal range of Toseland himself – the frontman showing vast improvement over some of his previous performances.
Finishing off the EP is perhaps its most surprising moment – a riff-filled cover of post-punks The Teardrop Explodes biggest hit ‘Reward’. Stripped of the synth elements that made the original track, Toseland’s take is a far more standard rock affair, and yet it works incredibly well. Cover songs always have the potential to go wrong, but Toseland manage to avoid this trap well, putting their own spin on the track, whilst still maintaining some of its original feel.
The only real criticism that you could make of ‘Hearts and Bones’ is that it simply ends too abruptly – clocking in at little over ten minutes long, it’s essentially a sampler of things to come. But what a sampler indeed – ‘Hearts and Bones’ shows a clear improvement over ‘Renegade’ in terms of songwriting, and we can only hope that Toseland’s next album is even better.