Photo Credit: Travis Shinn
About four-fifths of the way into “Cells,” the strong opening cut from The Damned Things’ second album High Crimes, lead singer Keith Buckley utters “guitar!” to verbally cue the solo from that same instrument, courtesy of Joe Trohman. This being hard rock, a guitar solo was about as inevitable as the rising sun, so we knew it was probably coming even if Buckley had not specifically called for it. Still, with a single two-syllable word, The Damned Things take us back to the singer-guitarist yin-and-yang that was once epitomized by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (among others), and not really part of today’s rock dynamic.
Or for those who don’t wish to read quite that much into it… it’s simply a nice touch, and something we maybe haven’t heard in a while. Not much else on High Crimes really constitutes anything else we haven’t been exposed to in the genre innumerable times in the last decade or so, making The Damned Things much closer to being the proprietors of a sort of hard rock purgatory.
The Damned Things also happen to be that anomaly known as a supergroup, the most “super” part in this case being Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley from Fall Out Boy along with Scott Ian, rhythm guitarist extraordinaire of Anthrax for close to four decades. The line-up is completed by bassist Dan Andriano from Alkaline Trio and – boasting probably the least prolific musical background – Buckley from the band Every Time I Die.
While it may not be Kanye and Sir Paul McCartney teaming, Fall Out Boy and Anthrax are bands which are still varied enough to make one think that a merging of some sort would offer either something so head-scratchingly bizarre it must be good, or so flawlessly matched that we wonder how it took this long for these guys to find each other. The result, while certainly for the most part solid, is neither.
High Crimes is not completely starved of surprises or glimpses of genuine ambition. “Something Good” (it is) is punctuated by a wonderfully odd cheerleader chant, and between all the members’ other projects, Fall Out Boy seem to be the dominant influence on the catchy “Invincible.” The band presents its more-or-less obligatory yet still quite welcome take on bluesy 70’s rock with “Omen,” as well as “Storm Charmer,” with its slow build-up reminiscent of bands like Blue Oyster Cult. “Young Hearts” offers a kind of Springsteen-on-steroids pop chorus along with a cool piano breakdown.
Buckley is an unquestionable a strong frontman, while none of the instrumentation on the album is anything less than totally on-point (Hurley certainly kills it on the skins). The Damned Things close the album singing “We won’t survive // We are nothing!” on “The Fire is Cold.” Probably an overstatement, but nonetheless, the final verdict on High Crimes could suggest that it may be the very definition of an album which will appeal greatly to fans of the specific genre that it represents but will be of little interest to anyone outside of that. But, hey, that ain’t no crime.
Written by Richard John Cummins