Sound — 7
Rock and Roll doesn't come easily to most bands but The Datsuns first album assured us all that rock and roll wasn't dead, nor was it difficult for the four-piece from Cambridge, New Zealand. Their self-titled debut was full of blistering fretwork and bluesy riffs played at a million miles per hour and it saw the longhairs get a European tour and a number of rave reviews from Indie Bible, the NME. The NME also labelled the Datsuns the best live act in the world in 2004 and although their electricity live hasn't changed at all since that date, their recorded sound has shifted dramatically. Second album 'Outta Sight/Outta Mind saw the British magazines' opinion change seismically but the bands mindset didn't falter and they continued touring frantically around the world. On 'Outta Sight/Outta Mind, it was a dose of 'second album blues' as John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin was at the helm, producing and recording. As a result, the overall sound changed from balls-out rock 'n' roll to a more slowed down version of hard rock that saw videos for 'Girls Best Friend' and 'Blacken My Thumb' played on British music television and some crucial exposure in the hard-to-crack American market. If the second album was slower then the boys must've had a really relaxing holiday this time round as new album 'Smoke and Mirrors' shows off gospel choirs, unhealthy amounts of slide guitar, wah solo's and clichd rock 'n' roll lyrics. The boys made the wise decision of producing the album themselves this time, or was it really that wise.
Lyrics — 8
From the opening seconds of the first track 'Who Are You Stamping Your Foot For? ' it is easy to see this is no 'Sitin' Pretty'. With full chords and intelligent drumbeats it certainly makes a mark but the result is very unexpected. The new single 'System Overload' sounds more like the Datsuns of old but with more of progression in sound. The solo by Christian is definitely worth checking out and it's sees him at his startling best. The video is also impressive, featuring the band play on the rooftop of an animated building being attacked by giant 1950's style wind-up robots until a squadron of biplanes show up and the Datsuns are saved form an almost certain doom.The next track is the one of the more songs surprising on the album. 'Waiting For Your Time To Come' sees a quiet acoustic guitar riff opening, which progresses into one of the most meaningful lyrics ever sung (or screamed) by bassist/vocalist Dolf: You try to rewrite history/Every little mystery. This is the Datsuns trying to improve (or rip-off) Led Zep's 'Dazed And Confused' and to be completely honest with you, they just manage to pull it off. The acoustic aspect continues through to 'Stuck Here For Days' that starts off timid and turns quickly into a full-on rock 'n' roll stomp that sees Dolf and his trademark impassioned screams and shouts of Oh Yeah! This is easily the standout track on the album and also the 'Stuck Here For Days' EP released earlier in the year. The video for the single is a fantastic montage of the band on tour that travels with the song in to clips of the band at their brutal best: playing live. Finally, finally! A swift, tricky lead guitar intro leads into 'Maximum Heartbreak'. This is what die-hard fans will buy this album for and it also allows new fans to access the old Datsuns sound without blowing their speakers up, and this is the problem. The song itself is perfectly fine but the production lacks the 'oomph' of the first album and even the second, this just sounds like a bad Datsuns cover-band, oooh, oooh, oooh, oooh, oooh! 's and all. Shocking is the only way to describe the next song. 'All Aboard' kicks off with gospel singersyes, you heard right. The next couple of bars channel some kind of '80s pop/rock not to similar to Bon Jovi. The verse sounds like Spiderbaits' 'Black Betty' with an insane combination of the two sounds together to make the chorus. This is a huge let down. Admittedly it does have a certain groove but it is nothing original and the boys could do so much better. 'Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!' Is it me or does 'Such a Pretty Curse' sound like Deja Voodoo's 'Shotgun'? This is bound to be the next single and it mixes the intensity of the MC5's 'Kick Out the Jams' and the backing vocals that is a trademark of garage/punk masters, the Hives. Disappointment. This is the only word to describe these past songs and 'Blood Red' does not help it's cause. The lyrics are so ridiculous it surely would not even find a place in their older material. I mean, AC/DC, Guns 'n' Roses and Black Sabbath had some pretty lame lyrics(they were more rockin' though) but this doesn't even come close: Take me down to the market/Yeah take me down. Let's paint the town blood red/It's a scarlet delight. Ha-ha! Finally some Rock and Roll! Starting off not to similar to 'Blacken My Thumb, 'Emperors New Clothes' is electric (in energy and in guitars) and it doesn't stop for the next two and a half minutes. A wah solo makes a very welcome return in the middle. Nothing special but it is a relief. 'Too Little Fire'I'll tell you what, this song has too little fire. This is one hell of a 'Stairway to Heaven', apart from the fact it lacks the development of the hard rock classicwell, I doesn't develop at all for the next eight minutes! Your favourite gospel singers make a return from 'All Aboard' and the 'inventive' wah solo's come with them.
Overall Impression — 8
Why guys? What happened? I've always had a qualm with the Datsuns sound, is that you can never hear Dolf's bass and it's the same on 'Smoke And Mirrors'. Maybe it's just the fellas were in a destructive mood because Phil's guitar can't be on most of the songs either. This has certainly shaken my trust in the Datsuns but for all the people who agree with this review: we've still got the first album to listen to. Now, have you noticed that some of the songs have been compared to various artists? This is because they haven't created anything new. It's like they rediscovered their older brothers record collection from '79, then listened to any modern band that have compared to a album in that record collection.