Gaskin

Stand or Fall

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One of many bands lured out of retirement by the 20th anniversary of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, circa the year 2000, Gaskin took advantage of the occasion to link up with a few opportune package reunion shows featuring other revived also-rans who, like them, were good enough to carve a notch in the heavy metal family tree, but not great enough grow their own branch like Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, or even Venom. Then, taking it one step further, the group -- or at least its new incarnation, featuring eponymous vocalist/guitarist Paul Gaskin, plus a trio of rookie henchmen in guitarist Andy Soloman, bassist Tony Ilkiw, and drummer Dave Pick -- also decided to record a new album called Stand or Fall, which, notwithstanding a few technical improvements and slightly better musicianship, successfully recaptured much of the raw aesthetic that characterized Gaskin's first two albums from 1981 and 1982. This under normal circumstances, would be a good thing, but since neither one of those albums fared particularly well even in their day (in fact, they contained just a handful of truly memorable singles between them), there was no redemption to be had now that the magical sheen of excitement surrounding the NWOBHM long ago faded into stardust. Sure enough, Stand or Fall ironically stood and fell along an oscillating scale of imitation and self-parody that saw all-too-familiar, workmanlike heavy rockers like "City of Light," "England My England," and the title track rubbing shoulders with a few, slightly more promising but largely derivative efforts. Speedy album opener "The Man Is Back" put Rainbow's "Spotlight Kid" riff through the blender and still worked out somewhat; the slick and catchy AOR of "Don't Talk About Love" was seemingly based on Gary Moore's 1985 album cut "Once in a Lifetime"; and the horrid plod of "Still Got the Hunger" smacked of Spinal Tap's "Heavy Duty." Nestled amid this abundant (and redundant) mediocrity were, you guessed it, a couple of memorable singles including the album's only true keeper, "Tomorrow Today," the unusually topical "Why the Gun," and -- for all the wrong reasons -- the cock rock anachronism "Take 'Em Off," which represents an entire category of ill-advised cabaret rock songwriting that David Lee Roth will surely be answering for in the purgatory. All of which, needless to say, added up to a far from career-revitalizing comeback for the hapless Gaskin, but probably still sent resilient fans well on their way down memory lane, for what that's worth.

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