Hailed by some as the “new heroes of British Country Rock” following the release of their debut album and subsequent E.P The Snakes have been a fixture on the London “alt country” scene since around 2002. The Last Days of Rock & Roll however isn’t a country rock album by any means with the clue lying in the title’s resemblance to Mott The Hoople’s The Golden Age of Rock and Roll to the beast it really is. Rewind to the seventies and the wooden horse tactics employed by the likes of Mott and the Faces who donned glitter to get some authentic rock’n’roll in the charts while bands like The Who and the Stones had their last brace of worthwhile singles. While this was happening a pub rock scene was brewing that eventually spewed up Brinsley Schwarz, Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers, Roogalator and The Kursall Flyers, bands who all shared an affinity with the American country rock of the time. Stir all of this up and you have an approximation of what The Last Days of Rock & Roll sounds like.
It’s a tough task and there are occasions when The Snakes falter as on the The Last Train which runs out of puff too soon and almost falls into power ballad territory. Look What We Could Have Been is similarly guilty of over egging the pudding with sky pointing guitar soloing bringing images of a thousand plus lighters held high celebrating stadium gods although it does have some of the spirit of Ian Hunter within it. However we’re glad to report that the remaining nine songs are indeed celebrations of the spirit of rock in its many guises and there are several which positively sparkle.
Too Hard opens the album with a bang. One of the true country rock songs here it rushes like the wind with great harmony vocals from Hannah Elton-Wall (of the Redland Palomino Company, a band The Snakes shared a drummer with until recently). The Band Played On has an epic feel to it with its driving Hammond organ, west coast harmonies and whiplash guitar all of which coalesce on a thrilling ending. The band take a short detour with a splendidly chiming cover of The French Girl, a song written by Ian and Sylvia but more commonly known via Gene Clark’s version. Guardian Angel recalls The Kursall Flyers’ more heartbroken moments while Jerry’s Chair is a deceptively upbeat memory of bassist John O’Sullivan’s late father. The centrepiece and highlight of the album is the astounding title song. The Last Days Of Rock & Roll does recall numerous tributes and elegies to the power of the rock along with memories of Top of The Pops dancers swaying and holding banners aloft as Simon Moor hits all sorts of emotional buttons, Ziggy, Mott, Argent and even Mud in the apocalyptic and anthemic first half of the song. Halfway through with the chorus ringing out it shifts gears however into a gutsy gospel blues as imagined by the likes of Primal Scream ending with a musical melange that includes sitar. A magnificent edifice indeed and probably a real crowd pleaser live.