Danko Jones

Below the Belt

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On the cover of Danko Jones' eighth album, Below the Belt, the group's namesake guitarist and singer sits in a big rattan chair (the sort favored by villains in old movies and Huey Newton) flanked by a snarling lion and a blonde Amazon decked out in lingerie and boots. Jones clearly scored high marks in his on-line "How to Look Like a Badass" course, and even though Below the Belt falls a few points short of living up to the cover artwork, it boasts just enough swagger, muscle, and street smarts that the image doesn't come off as ridiculous in comparison. Below the Belt is built from lean, no-frills hard rock riffs with some punk rock sneering, heavy metal pomp, and funky bottom-end throb added to give the songs texture and seasoning, and a dash of tongue-in-cheek wit as a garnish (or at very least songs like "Magic Snake" and "I Can't Handle Moderation" seem like they're supposed to be funny). Jones' guitar work burns fast and furious on Below the Belt, even though his solos aren't as powerful as his rock-solid rhythm work, and bassist John Calabrese and drummer Dan Cornelius push this music into fifth gear and keep it running like a top. While they're from Canada, Danko Jones have enjoyed their greatest success in Sweden, and in some respects they're not unlike one of that nation's most celebrated bands, the Hives -- just as the Hives took classic garage punk and shot it full of energy and brilliant arrogance, Danko Jones are a hard rock power trio who run on an explosive mixture of amped-up guitars and the fervent belief that they're cooler than you and can kick your butt. Their cool factor is a matter of opinion, but play Below the Belt loud enough and this music will certainly leave a mark.

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