Album: All The Right Noises
No major international music artist has as storied a career as British rock superstars Thunder.
Built around the lifelong friendship of vocalist extraordinaire Danny Bowes and songwriting genius and guitarist Luke Morley, Thunder is the last of the true British rock giants.
Garlanded in praise by fans and critics alike since the release in 1990 of their debut hit album, Backstreet Symphony, this is the band that W. Axl Rose personally intervened to secure them their first American record deal, the band of whom Whitesnake leader David Coverdale says, “I’ve been a huge fan of theirs for years.” The band whose 1992 album, Laughing On Judgement Day, was only kept from No. 1 in the UK charts by a Kylie Minogue best-of compilation. A fact Luke laughs off with the quip, “I always say we spent a week lying beneath Kylie.”
Beyond the plaudits and sense of humour, though, lies a band that made their bones through a succession of some of the most highly-regarded rock albums of the past 30 years. The key to their renown: brilliantly conceived top-drawer material including all-time classics like ‘Dirty Love’, the what-it-says-on-tin rocker Axl Rose first fell in love with; ‘Low Life In High Places’, described by the late great Radio One Rock Show presenter Tommy Vance as “the greatest ever single released by a rock band”; and a catalogue of hit albums that is the envy of the world, including all three of the Top 10 albums they have released since their ecstatically-received comeback six years ago: Wonder Days (2015), Rip It Up (2017) and Please Remain Seated (2019).
What enriches their story is the fact that Thunder has been through enough lows to fully appreciate the highs. On the cusp of becoming the next big thing in America in 1991 – heralded coast-to-coast as the natural successors to Brit-rock legends such as The Who and Led Zeppelin – their first major arena tour was scrapped virtually overnight after grunge changed the face of the music industry in the early-90s.
They continued to enjoy Top Five albums but the writing was on the wall and the band went into hiatus after their fifth album, Giving The Game Away, became their first not to reach the Top 40. When they returned four years later with a succession of independently-released albums the fans and critics were still with them. The 2005 album The Magnificent Seventh! more than lived up to its title and boasted the groove-chugging, peacocking hit single, ‘I Love You More Than Rock’n’roll’.
But without major label support Thunder once again became disheartened. Other avenues were pursued: different paths to a world of solo deals, working with other bands, working on the biz side the music business.
Then in 2015 came their big comeback with Wonder Days. Simply the best Thunder album since their famous debut 25 years before, Classic Rock describing it as: “a massive reminder that class is both timeless and incandescent.” It also became the first Thunder album for 20 years to reach the Top 10. Since then Thunder has been on a roll.
Danny says, “Our last album Please Remain Seated was very much a sit down album, and we did a sit down tour to promote it. Both the album and tour were firsts for us, and we enjoyed doing them enormously, but it was always the plan to turn the volume back up and rock out for the album that followed. I think the little rest did us good, because the energy on this new album is huge.”
Now in 2021 comes their 13th studio album, All The Right Noises. An intense confection of illicit charms that reasserts their authority as the number one band in the land.
Recorded in the months leading up to the first Covid-19 lockdown, it was originally due for release in September 2020. Strange to reflect then on how much of the new material appears to address the challenging new world we now inhabit.
Says Luke, “All the songs were written and recorded pre-Covid. But it is interesting how if you look at some of the tracks through the prism of Covid they still make a lot of sense.”
A track like the volcanic opener ‘Last One Out, Turn Off the Lights’, could easily be mistaken for world-ending lockdown rage. But, says Luke, “That was directly about Brexit, but you could apply it to everything else.”
Similarly, the paranoiac grinding ‘Destruction’, which Luke explains, “is about mental illness. It's about depression. That is so perfectly timed now too.” Or most biting, the epic ‘Force Of Nature’: full spectrum heaven-meets-hell jacket. This ain’t just rock’n’roll. This is honest fury. “Certainly with a lot of the songs I was angry,” says Luke. “There's no hiding what ‘Force Of Nature’ is about.”
In this instance, Donald Trump, as Danny spits out the words:
‘I know that I’m a god in your eyes
But I believe this much
I’m a friend of the common people
As long as they don’t touch…’
Luke: “It’s written from Trump's point of view. I just thought, I wonder what goes through his head.”
There are also lighter moments, as you would expect from Thunder. The cheerfully swaggering ‘You’re Gonna Be My Girl’. The defiantly strutting ‘Going To Sin City’.
Luke: “It's based on the first time Danny and I went to LA in the late-80s. We were used to the music scene around Soho, and thought we were cool. In LA I felt like I was the bloke who’d come to fix the plumbing. Before bands like Guns N’ Roses rock’n’roll was pretty much denim and leather in Britain. Danny and I were determined to bring all that colour and sex and fun to the new band we were forming, which became Thunder.”
Each track comes with a real-life story. ‘St. George's Day’: diversity and immigration. ‘Don't Forget To Live Before You Die’: another eerily prophetic song for people too scared to leave their homes. ‘I'll Be The One’: a monumental ballad which Luke describes as “a song about that thing where you're completely in the relationship for the long haul and saying I’m here whenever you need me. It's easy when times are good. But when times are tough that's when you need support. Nobody's immune from that, and that's what the song’s about.”
Then there’s ‘Young Man’. “It’s like the opposite of ‘My Generation’,” explains Luke. “An old man – i.e. me – going, ‘Thank fuck I’m not young now.’ All these things my generation didn't have to deal with when we were kids. We were free to make mistakes. Now everybody judges you and it’s online forever.”
The key to keeping the band’s edge, says Danny, is “we have never felt like we’re at the top of the mountain. We are never satisfied that we’ve made our best record, or done our best show.”
To keep it fresh, he explains, “We made a conscious decision to only record a limited number of tunes per recording session. In the past we would go into a residential studio and spend however long it took until we came out with enough tracks for an album. Nowadays we usually record in three sessions with fewer songs in each, which means there’s time for reflection and more writing in between. The results are more diverse and fresher.”
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Album: The Greatest Hits
Celebrating thirty years of music, Thunder will release a 28 track album entitled simply ‘The Greatest Hits’ on 27 September 2019 through BMG. Featuring tracks from each of their 12 studio albums, it is the first ever collection to actually be sanctioned by the band, but also compiled by Thunder themselves. The tracks chosen for ‘The Greatest Hits’ shows perfectly the arc of evolution that the band has travelled over three decades, developing, challenging themselves and always moving on: without ever losing the core elements that make them special. ‘The Greatest Hits’ will be released in four formats: 2CD, expanded 3CD [featuring a live session recorded and streamed at the Planet Rock studio on 18 Jan 2019], 3LP and Digital. CD1 & CD2 are both closed by Thunder covers of classic songs.
Thirty years into their career, the time feels right to look back on what’s been done, taking stock of some fantastic work, but keeping one eye on the horizon and what is yet to come. ‘The Greatest Hits’ is a comprehensive, cohesive and career-spanning collection, taking in material from every single album since the debut that propelled them onto the world stage, 1990’s ‘Backstreet Symphony’ which hit number 21 in the Charts. That first salvo was followed by ‘Laughing On Judgement Day’ which hit No. 2 in 1992, and then ‘Behind Closed Doors’ which was another Top 5 hit in 1995. ‘Greatest Hits’ includes material taken from releases right up till 2017’s ‘Rip It Up’, which hit No.3 in the Charts, and 2019’s ‘Please Remain Seated’. In fact, the last three Thunder albums – ‘Wonder Days’, ‘Rip It Up’ and ‘Please Remain Seated’ have all enjoyed UK Top Ten status in the Album Chart.
Frontman Danny Bowes said, “Having been at it for 30 years, we now feel we have enough of a body of work behind us to do this properly. We explored and re-imagined our back catalogue with the ‘Please Remain Seated’ album, and now with ‘The Greatest Hits’ we’ve gathered all our key tunes together. It’s all killer, no filler, and we hope fans like having it all in one place.” Guitarist and songwriter Luke Morley added, “It was great fun picking the tunes for this compilation, and brilliant to put all of them into one big collection.”
For many bands, an album entitled ‘The Greatest Hits’ album would be a valedictory romp through past glories, for Thunder this is a collection of signposts that have taken them from where they started to where they are now. With a new studio album already under way and slated for release in late 2020, the Thunder story is far from over; if anything that rumbling is getting louder!
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Album: Please Remain Seated
Label: BMG / Warner
Thunder will release their brand new studio album ‘Please Remain Seated’ on 18 January 2019 through BMG. The album, released as the band enter their third decade, is a collection of radically reworked versions of songs from throughout their extensive catalogue. This album will raise eyebrows, hackles and heartbeats in equal measure. ‘Please Remain Seated’ is the sound of a band taking a strange journey into their own music, but also distilling thirty years of playing together in order to create something truly compelling, taking in flavours of rock, blues, jazz and soul along the way. The band will tour ‘Please Remain Seated’ across the UK in February 2019.
‘Please Remain Seated’ will be available in various formats: Standard 1CD, Deluxe 2CD (bonus tracks), 180g standard black, gatefold double vinyl, Limited edition transparent orange double vinyl (HMV/Indie store exclusive, limited to 1000), Limited edition transparent white, orange & black splatter double vinyl (limited to 1000), Digital – HD, MFiT and standard. The album has been mastered at half speed for dynamic range. ‘She’s So Fine’ will be the first single from the album and is available from 19 October 2018.
Danny Bowes said, “We’ve never been the kind of band that wanted to make the same album over and over, and we’ve never been scared to try new things. In fact, making Thunder music over the past 30 years has taught us that the more we challenge ourselves, the better we get. Having re-imagined and re-recorded Love Walked In in 2017, we were very stimulated by the process, and wanted to try it on other songs. We made it as live as possible, jamming ideas until we found an arrangement that felt good. We set ourselves three rules: work fast, don’t aim for perfection, and make it different to the original. Some songs fell together spontaneously, and some took a series of strange left turns before ending up in a place none of us predicted.
By shaking up old tunes in this way, we forced ourselves to rethink how we felt about them. We think it’ll probably be the same for fans when they hear them. It’s not supposed to be a ‘Best Of’, and it’s not a change of direction, it’s just another brief stop along the journey to where we’re heading (wherever that is). We really like it, and we hope others will too”.
Since forming in 1989, Thunder have notched up twenty Top Fifty singles, 2 gold albums, and cultivated a reputation as consummate live performers. Their last album – 2017’s ‘Rip It Up’ – hit number 3 in the UK album charts, giving the band their highest chart placing in 22 years. ‘Please Remain Seated’ is the result of all those miles on the clock and represents the sound of a band having fun. The smiles on their faces are almost audible, and the occasional bit of inter-band banter that made the final cut just underlines the d’esprit de corps that has always been there with Thunder. Half of the tracks feature additional musicians who’ve performed at the famed Christmas shows and there’s even a choir on one track!
‘Please Remain Seated’ may be a quieter album – the delicate sound of Thunder if you will! – but this collection underlines the strength of the songwriting and musicianship, and it also proves that great [even unexpected] things can happen when a band is prepared to step out of its comfort zone and challenge itself, even after 30 years.