Towers of London

Blood Sweat & Towers

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Sleazoid '80s hair metal by and large passed England right by. Sure, they could claim Def Leppard, but that Sheffield quintet was too traditionally glam and English to really be aligned with the L.A. scene, and even if Guns N' Roses had success in the U.K., their impact wasn't felt much outside of maybe Terrorvision and certainly early Manic Street Preachers, who took all of the existential angst out of GNR and none of the fun. So the 2006 emergence of Towers of London came as a bit of a surprise, since their sound is at its heart a replication of the sound of the L.A. gutters circa 1989 -- perhaps the time is right for a revival of this sound, but it's a little odd coming from a U.K. band that was, in the words of Rock Star: Supernova's Puerto Rican hottie Zayra Alvarez, in their diapers when this music was originally on the charts. But a closer inspection of TOL's debut, Blood Sweat & Towers -- almost certainly not an allusion to the '70s band fronted by David Clayton-Thomas, almost certainly an allusion to what the band poured into this record -- reveals that these five lads are certainly the children of Britpop, as they inadvertently challenge Blur to a row on "Kill the Pop Scene," lift the opening drum roll of Suede's "The Drowners" for "On a Noose" (which is married to the opening guitar riff from "Welcome to the Jungle"), and then slavishly follow Oasis' symphonic Beatles pastiche on "King." And that's not the only time that the kings of '90s British rock surface on Blood Sweat & Towers -- vocalist Donny Tourette (almost certainly not his birth name) approximates Liam Gallagher's defiantly British sneer with his every breath, which is only appropriate, since Towers of London really do try to be the baddest collection of bad boys since Oasis, or at least the Libertines, who appear to be where they learned all of their Clash moves, such as the pounding "Air Guitar" with its chanted singalongs. TOL come across like distilled highlights from the last quarter century of British hard rock, all wrapped up in a presentation taken directly from the last 25 years of American hard rock, so it's rebellious in a comfortable way. And there's another band that enters into the equation when considering Towers of London: it's the Darkness, who skillfully -- sometimes too skillfully -- sent up the conventions of '80s metal before they descended into self-parody. TOL's modus operandi is similarly stoopid, but there's not a shred of the self-awareness that made the Darkness a brief sensation, nor is there any of the gleeful knowing dumbness that made Slade timeless. In comparison to those smartly stupid bands, Towers of London are lunkheads serving up what's expected in terms of sex, drugs, and rock & roll, which they've learned all about in history books and photos they found on the Net. Since there ain't much big dumb rock & roll in 2006, anybody raised on one of the bands Towers of London emulate will find some of Blood Sweat & Towers fleeting fun -- particularly if they like Guns N' Roses more than Oasis -- but the group strives so hard to fit the conventional definition of a bad-boy rock & roll band that they can't help but sound, well, conventional.

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