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Federal Charm - 'Passenger' Album Review


1. Swing Sinner

2. Choke

3. Emerald Haze

4. Death Rattle

5. Nowhere Is Home

6. Get Through

7. Concrete Creature

8. Can’t Rule Me

9. Halo

10. Speak Out

11. Parting Words

There have been a few personnel changes to Federal Charm since their last album, notably a new frontman in Tom Guyer. With the vocalist being key to the sound of a band, how different are they? Well 'Passenger', their third album will reveal all.

Federal Charm's sound is definitely heavier and has more punch, but fear not, there is still enough of their DNA to retain their fan base and maybe the darker sound will enlist more followers. There are some very good Blues Rock bands on the scene currently and Federal Charm are there with the best of them. I reviewed The Bad Flowers album, 'Starting Gun' early in the year and they are co headlining with Federal Charm on a number of dates in September. Having now heard this album, I can say that if Blues laden Rock is your bag, then you would be mad to miss both these excellent bands together on the same bill.

The album opens with 'Swing Sinner' which is a story of a young man who kills his abusive father. This is a secret that only the listener is in on, as he is hung for his actions. The crowd can be heard declaring 'They caught him'. A sublime riff with reverb kicks in before Tom cries 'Swing Sinner, Swing'. Wow now these are powerfully delivered vocals. Add a sweet guitar solo and as openers go this is pretty damn good. So that is Tom showcased on the first track. The second track starts with another new member showing what he can do, with a drum opening, Josh Zahler, shows off and pounds the skins throughout. The lyrics are catchy and delivered with the derision that Tom obviously had for a guy at college who thought that his privilege and wealth made him better than anyone else. The first two tracks are in the Classic Rock stable, however 'Emerald Haze' is a melodic track about seeing an ex starting afresh with someone else. The band are tight and Paul Bowe delivers another accomplished guitar solo. Real music fans will identify with 'Death Rattle' which deals with the closure of music venues, and the loss and emptiness music fans feel. A simple guitar riff repeats through the entire track. Whilst it is simple it is effective in driving the track, and compliments the clever lyrics.

'Nowhere Is Home' really demonstrates how good the musicians in the band are. The combination of bass and guitar is very effective as Tom describes the feeling of having no roots that a lot of people will identify if they have moved around a lot in their childhood. This is one of those songs that you just lose yourself in with meandering guitars and L.D. Morawski's basslines. The tempo picks up a notch with 'Get Through', a song about moving on from a relationship. 'Concrete Creature', is probably one of the most complex and best tracks on the album. It opens with an exquisite resonator guitar, playing a Delta Blues riff, followed by a pounding rhythm section as the band decries the destruction of nature by big business and the apathy shown by the general populous as they consume the products in a throw away society. There are tempo and style changes throughout the track. A similar subject is explored in 'Can't Rule Me', which is as heavy as the previous track and probably signals the direction that the band a going in. The instrumentation is superb and the lyrics ebb and flow and punctuate the music with great effect.

'Halo', instantly gets the head making involuntary nodding actions, a great up tempo driving track, which whilst being a song about unrequited love, is heavy without losing its impact. The lyrics are crisp and clear, and you can see this being a future single. Tom seems to be calling to all the apathetic people from 'Concrete Creature' to wake up to the failings of the establishment and the effect that it is having on them The fuzzy guitars, deep bass line and frantic percussion, with symbols crashing make this seem like a revolutionary rebel call. The album closes with 'Parting Words' which when you think about it, is a good title for the end of the experience. A song about divorce and the signs that precede it, the despair oozes from it. Echo is used on the guitar riffs which gives the piece a melancholy psychedelic feel. This is a song to be listened to, preferably on decent headphones, in a darkened room.

Passenger is a perfect mixture of stories, social comment, and life experiences. The tracks are diverse enough to keep you interested in the album, and the band collectively are as tight as the skins on Josh Zahler's drum kit. The album has been very well produced and the move to a heavier sound has not diminished the lyrical quality of Federal Charm. British Blues Rock is seeing a resurgence under the radar of the mainstream. This is real authentic music, and Federal Charm have proved, with this exquisite album, that they are not Passengers in this genre, but are driving it. This album demands to be played loud.

Passenger is released on 14th September and is available from the usual places. Do yourself a favour and pre-order today.

Review - Tony Creek

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