Overall Score: 8.5/10 Songwriting and Musicianship: 9/10 Vocals: 9/10 Lyrical Content: 8/10 Pros: Classic Reef without feeling nostalgic, recorded quickly without sounding rushed, vocals still have all the power without going after 25 years Cons: Some people may not enjoy listening to Gary's inimitable style of singing and to make a sweeping generalisation this album may well appeal only to those who enjoyed Reef the first time round
Back in the 90’s Reef were the band with “that song” and “that voice”, bothering the UK Top 40 and music venues and festivals around the country to boot, then essentially took a 6 year break in the 00’s. Having reconvened for a few shows, it was clear the magic was still there and so was the audience and slowly but surely the band played more and more shows each year getting back into the swing of things, eventually releasing a new album (Revelation), their first in 18 years.
Now, another 4 years later, the band present Shoot Me Your Ace. Written 2 years ago mostly in a weekend and produced by Duran Duran legend Andy Taylor, it’s an album that sounds both big, current and yet would have worked just as well as the follow up to 1997’s breakout album Glow.
As the title track opens with a pretty hard rock guitar riff from Jesse Wood, newest member (literally days before the recording sessions) Luke Bullen brings in some big fat drums (or should that be phat? I don’t know young people’s speak). Then, “that voice” bellows from the speakers as Gary Stringer shows that even 25 years later he can still sound like the illegitimate (and scientifically impossible) bastard love child of Rod Stewart and Brian Johnson.
When Can I See You Again has a cool Summer’s in Bloom vibe (from aforementioned Glow) with an absolutely Blues to the wall guitar solo (great description totally off the cuff, no one else is ever allowed to say that now). Refugee is bound to be a great song live and Gary would like to point out that “any resemblance to real events is purely coincidental”, but adds that he wanted the lyrical content of the album to be “adventure stories that make you want to dance and be free”
Best of Me may not be moshpit inducing, but it’s definitely going to get multiple limbs moving from the barrier to the bar at any gig and even features some “na na na” action for the obligatory “get the audience going” moment. It takes until Soundgarden-esque Hold Back the Morning for man mountain Gandalf lookalike bassist Jack Bessant to make his presence truly felt with a great bassline that carries the song.
Everything Far Away (about a convict sailing to Australia) is nothing short of epic and I See Your Face sees the whole band lock in and play in the pocket while album closer Strangelove sounds like the greatest song The Rolling Stones never recorded, with Gary managing to deliver verses with 2 different melody lines while the instruments stay the same and it’s that kind of out of the box thinking that put Reef on the map in the first place.
This is an absolutely fantastic album by one of the best Britrock bands from back in the day and everyone should take a moment to appreciate that they are still giving us new music in 2022.
Shoot Me Your Ace is out now. Check out what the band is up to at http://www.reeftheband.com/