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DIRTY HONEY Can't Find The Brakes

By Andrew Depedro, Ottawa Corespondent
Monday, October 23, 2023 @ 7:13 AM

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Can't Find The Brakes

2023 Dirt Records

With a decade into their hard-hitting hard rock legacy, LA's DIRTY HONEY remain the industry's most unsigned free agent champions. Granted, their upcoming release Can't Find The Brakes may only be their sophomore effort but as they've been busy with some serious road work lately which has seen them on several high-profile North American and European tours over the past year including GUNS 'N ROSES, MAMMOTH WVH, THE BLACK CROWES and KISS, they've also become seasoned touring vets rather quickly. As frontman Marc LaBelle states in explaining the title, "Sometimes being a touring musician can feel like you're on a train going full speed, and even if you could find the brakes, would you really want to?"

This past April, LaBelle - along with John Notto (guitar), Justin Smolian (bass) and new drummer Jaydon Bean - headed to Byron Bay, Australia to record the new album with long-time producer Nick DiDia at his studio. Unlike the band's self-titled, full-length 2019 debut, which, due to the pandemic, had to be recorded via ZOOM with the band in Los Angeles and DiDia in Australia, DIRTY HONEY spent an entire month in the studio with DiDia. The result was a more flexible-sounding album which allowed for the band to not only exercise its groove within its brand of raw-sounding 70's-inspired rootsy hard rock, but also experiment with new undiscovered talents - and that was where Jaydon Bean caught DIRTY HONEY from beyond his hard-hitting tubthumping skills. "Having Jayden in the band has made a huge difference," said Justin, "He's an a capella singer with a background in vocal harmonies. So having him contribute, especially to the harmonies, has really added to our sound and has helped us grow a lot."

And grow they did on Can't Find The Brakes. With some stand-out tracks such as the opening number "Don't Put Out The Fire" as well as "Dirty Mind", "Get A Little High", "Ride On" and the absolute bangers in the form of "Won't Take Me Alive" and the title track, this follow-up effort has put the band on the quick path to sainthood - and probably an opening slot on the next ROLLING STONES tour approved by both Mick and Keith. LaBelle's vocals range from the hardened belter on the stone-cold funk of "Won't Take Me Alive" to the angelic gospel soprano on quieter ballads such as "You Make It All Right", "Roam" and "Coming Home". He's also sharp without being cutting-edge with the lyrical barbs with lines such as "I never needed a doctor/They're always pushin' me pills/I never needed a dealer/I can find my own thrills", firmly distancing the power and the passion of their 70's/80's musical influences from their vices. It's also the refreshing honesty with a bit of occasional self-awareness in the lyrics throughout Can't Find The Brakes which make the album stand out amongst a lot of its current hard rock peers. LaBelle may appear to be in full-on party mode energy-wise while bendering hard on a relationship gone wrong throughout most of "Get A Little High" but he's already identified himself as the possible cause of the breakdown by the end of the opening verse "Got me thinkin' 'bout my mistakes". And while every songwriter worth their lyrical penmanship fully understand that it's never easy to express one's shortcomings through the freedom of music without coming off as bereft of authenticity, LaBelle is probably one of the few who is efficiently quick in acknowledging that in a relationship, it's not just her, but it's also him, which he also takes into account on "Satisfied" about admitting that he "only got myself to blame" for a soured relationship.

And finally, for the true STONES enthusiast looking to really find a trace of the Glimmer Twins' DNA throughout this album just because I name dropped in this review about how DIRTY HONEY would be the ideal opening band for their next tour, give the closing number "Rebel Son" more than a couple of listens. The fact that it does capture the bouncy swagger of "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" does make them a solid contender but it's the catchy piano interlude accompanying the song's fade out which suddenly brings the song and the album right back to life. In fact, when you think about it, a good half of some of the STONES' deep 60's and 70's cuts sound exactly like the outro to "Rebel Son" anyway.

"I don't know where METALLICA's inspiration comes from, but if it's from me, then I fucked up," Keith Richards was once quoted as saying. He was either speaking from a period in which the members of DIRTY HONEY were barely of legal drinking age let alone ready to form a band or he just wasn't looking hard enough. Either way, Can't Find The Brakes should put DIRTY HONEY on the right lane for that opening STONES slot for all of the correct reasons.

5.0O Out Of 5.0


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