Not quite the nostalgic funkfest some of us were hoping for, but pretty solid all the same...
Anyone who has been lucky enough to have seen the re-activated, re-energised Dan Reed Network live in the last year or so will have been pleased to note that, in the live arena at least, the funk-metal veterans have still got ‘it’.
I’m one of those people, having seen the band delight London with a grade A performance late last year, and I have to say that since that glorious October night I’ve been in a state of heightened excitement waiting for this album to arrive in my inbox – and now, thankfully, the waiting is over.
However, after several listens, it’s unfortunate to have to report that the overriding sense you get from Fight Another Day is one of slight disappointment. Opening brace Divided and The Brave are bona fide, stomping DRN classics, although both suffer from Reid’s slightly reserved vocal delivery. The Brave in particular will prompt memories of the band’s glory days, being a strutting, funky anthem blessed with absolutely rock solid drumming from Dan Pred and a hooky refrain that just doesn’t stop. New boy Rob Daiker adds some nice keyboard flourishes to the heady mix brewed up by long term members Reid, Pred and guitarist Brion James and bassist Melvin Brannon II, and it’s looking very much at this point like we’re on the way to something special here.
Except it doesn’t quite pan out that way. Infected promises much but just fails to deliver, despite featuring a nice solo from James, whilst the slightly soporific Champion, despite its heroic title, just meanders through four and a half pleasant if somnolent minutes of funk pop.
Ignition and Give it Love are similarly pleasant but essentially faceless, so it’s left to B There With U to lift the torpor and inject a little personality into matters. However that brief burst of momentum is completely dissipated by the awful cod-reggae of Save the World; The sort of thing that would have been a hit all over Europe in the late eighties in the hands of Inner Circle or Ace of Bass, it’s a clunking mishit, well-intentioned lyrics notwithstanding, and it completely dismantles any build up of tension and dynamic that the band were constructing.
Thankfully Save the World is FAD’s nadir; Next track Eye of the Storm features more excellent soloing from James as well as being Reid’s vocal highlight of the album; The man actually sounds invested in this track, so that, even as it wanders a bit at the end, you’re left feeling that the band does actually have a bit of emotional attachment to the songs here.
Reunite has a similar urgency, Daiker again adding some nice embellishment as the track builds a faintly-Eurovisionesque drama in the verses before hitting the best chorus of the album. It’s hands-in-the-air stuff, of that there’s no doubt, and proof that as a unit this band still has the ability to churn out seriously radio-bothering material.
The euphoria generated by Reunite subsides quickly, however, as the next couple of tracks – Heaven and Sharp Turn both return to the wooziness that plagues the middle section of the album. Final track Stand Tall isn’t bad at all, however, featuring lush synth washes and more nice lead guitar work.
Anyone looking for a return to the strutting and slinky glory days of the first Dan Reed Network album is going to be sorely disappointed by Fight Another Day; Those days are long, long gone and Dan Reed today is a mature unit worn down more by the cares of the world than worried about where the next snog is coming from, and that change of attitude and priorities is clearly signposted in the music and lyrics on offer here. So whilst there is a lot of material here that just won’t ignite nostalgic flames as much as some of us old-time fans would like, there’s just about enough here to warrant a better acquaintance with the record than first impressions might denote.
Fight Another Day is released by Frontiers Music on June 3rd