When your first exposure to a new band is through seeing them live, and they blow you away, there’s always the chance for disappointment when it comes to hearing their studio recordings. We’ve all been there and seen a support band who sounded really good live, but turned out to be hopelessly dull on record, and these bands are the ones that tend not to last very long. Songs can sound great the first time you hear them, amidst the noise and energy of a gig, but if you can’t enjoy listening to them when you’re back home or on the bus, what’s the point?
And so, Vintage Trouble. I saw them earlier in the year supporting The Impressions at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester and they did blow me away. Frontman Ty Taylor’s incredible stage presence and soulful vocals stole the show, and I compared him to a young James Brown fronting the Allman Brothers Band when I did my review. He sang, he screamed, he spun around and looked like he was born to perform. How would Vintage Trouble’s music sound when you couldn’t see him and his vocals were done without an audience to sing them to?
Well, the first thing I’ll say is that the songs on The Bomb Shelter Sessions don’t have the same kind of energy and thrill as I remember them having at the gig. That’s not a massive surprise though, as I’ve already said, so it’s not a major criticism, but it is a disappointment. Luckily, most of the songs are good enough to stand up on their own without the sight of Taylor’s whirlwind stage persona to give them that extra kick, and it says a lot that I recognise quite a lot of them after having heard them just once before, and a couple of months ago.
It starts off fiery enough with Blues Hand Me Down and there’s some scorchers towards the end, but it settles into a more laidback groove in between, setting them in more Lenny Kravitz territory than I would have imagined before. When it doesn’t particularly work, like the lukewarm Still And Always Will, it just kind of passes you by, but tracks like Nobody Told Me and Nancy Lee are much more like it. Taylor’s vocals are great throughout, though occasionally you’d like him (and the band) to cut loose a little more than they do.
The most important thing to remember about The Bomb Shelter Sessions is that it’s a debut album by a band who have only been together since last year, and the songs were apparently recorded after just a couple of months. Since then, they’ve presumably become a much tighter, meaner proposition, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with on their second album. Most of the songs here are growers rather than instant classics, but there’s definitely the potential for Vintage Trouble to be just as good as the bands and acts that influenced them.