NEW ALBUM: Grio by Aidan Connell — putting the fight back into the blues

Aidan Connell's new album Grio doesn't revive the blues, but reveals it has been alive all along stalking the Bethnal Green desert with Rimbaud and Elvis and
Aidan Connell’s new album Grio was release on October 2

It’s almost like we have given up on the blues. The 12 bar shuffle has become a monotonous cliché, one man and his guitar is drowned out in the corporate news.

The hard luck story, the struggle against slavery, and enforced poverty of empire are no longer narratives that resonate with modern music listeners.

With the advent of punk, blues became old hat. It became something of a pastiche of itself at best, something ageing rockers do to end off an album.

How can you have blues in an age when we’ve got everything we need, when our bellies are full and we live off the fat of the land?

Aidan Connell’s new album Grio reminds us that the blues is more than social comment or self-pity.

Fusing rhythm and blues, punk and psychedelia, Grio is unquestionably a modern album.

Black Days is as Robert Johnson as they come, addressing existential angsts and isolation rather than a walking boss or a slave driver.

I Hate Rock and Roll is anthemic and ironic in equal measure, and that’s a rare balance that’s struck.

In fact, despite the song’s sing-along, dance-floor appeal, it’s Aidan Connell’s strongest song lyrically, cutting into the repetitive, pop-culture meme-mimicking of modern guitar music.

If there's one shortcoming of the album it's that it doesn't give you a accurate picture of what Aidan Connell is like live
If there’s one shortcoming of the album it’s that it doesn’t give you an accurate picture of what Aidan Connell is like live

Opening the album, it’s as near to a political statement as Connell gets, an Iggy Pop-like manifesto, reclaiming rock and roll for it’s Sun Records roots, rather than mourning its death.

Everybody Else thrusts into your brain, and has a brutal, uncompromising R&B beat.

This backbone, the clip-clap two-step of the panicking heart, used to be the very foundation of pop music.

Now it’s in danger of being an artefact. But Aidan Connell brings it awake again like his own Frankenstein’s monster, an almost dangerous act in an age of clogging, soppy hipster rhythm sections.

Requiem For Love is a distinctive addition to the album. Rather than straight-up blues this song reveals Connell’s debt to Britpop.

It’s chugging, pounding snare behind overdrive chords reminds you of the cocky opening sequences of Noel Gallagher’s best work.

Connell’s smooth, disembodied crooning offers a counterpoint to the festival-rock shape of the song, again making it veer into anthem territory.

Connell pictured like at the Redcurch Brewery in Bethnal Green
Connell pictured live at the Redcurch Brewery in Bethnal Green

Right down to it’s singing, Stratocaster bridge and the euphoric solo, Requiem has 1997 written all over it, and it’s one of the album’s biggest surprises.

The range of influences is evident in The Other Side, with the wringing post-punk opening solo and 60s garage rhythm chords.

With Find Me In The Gutter we are right back square in the heart of the blues, but the anxious pulse of this song reminds you this is no nostalgia trip, but songwriting born from the dust and choking smoke of London’s east end.

Songs like Son of A Gun just don’t come around these days. The opening slide blues cuts like a blade and leaves deadly ticks on your living soul.

This is pure, sweating, masculine blues – not music for teacher’s pets or pretty hipster girls with ukeleles.

The coolly tense and joyful aggression of the blues rides on a menacing, banging drum beat, as if someone brought Son House to life and gave him The Stooges for a backing band.

If there’s one shortcoming of the album it’s that it doesn’t give you an accurate picture of what Aidan Connell is like live.

This is not music for trendy Shoreditch coffee shops, or tiresome gallery openings by hip PR types.

This is music that draws blood, makes you confused and disturbed, ready for a fight.

Aidan Connell brings the blues into the Iphone age, and drags a spoiled and sarcastic generation kicking and screaming onto the battleground.

Stop pigeon holing every new band according to a past meme – this is music that will suffocate you and revive you all in the space of a few bars.

It’s time to man-up and face the facts about what the blues really is.

Grio is available to buy now from aidanconnell.com 

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