After a period in the wilderness, Planet Rock Roadstars Federal Charm return with their much awaited new album. Following the departure of their singer and drummer, the band recruited drummer Josh Zahler and new frontman Tom Guyer to push them forward. Despite the new line up, Passenger retains the gritty edge of their previous work but just crank it up a notch. Founder and guitarist Paul Bowe is a lifelong Led Zeppelin fan, and with a singer like Guyer, he gets the chance to channel this energy and weight into the album. Alongside the Led Zep influences there’s a feeling of the contemporary too with the sharp percussion of bands like Rival Sons and Tax the Heat.
The band spent more time than their previous releases developing the material and in turn their synchronicity. The songs mainly revolve around breakups and politics, so the tone of the album is harder, heavier and indicative of their creative journey though the last few years. The dynamic opener Swing Sinner heralds their comeback with aplomb. The metallic guitar and the gutsy vocals take hold within a few bars, refusing to release their grip. The semi-autobiographical Choke fires off the bile in the direction of a snobbish rich kid who Tom knew at college. The venom and punching percussive rhythms on the track resemble a vivacious musical brawl. Even in the final bars the gloves are still off and remain so until the final sonic pummeling. Emerald Haze taps into the soft rock feel of some of the band’s previous work. It’s a pleasant respite from the album’s incendiary beginning, but one that lasts just long enough to catch your breath. Death Rattle is a protest against the closing down of music venues to replace them with apartment blocks and fancy development. Concrete Creatures follows a similar line commenting on rampant consumerism, greed and the destruction of nature. There’s nothing on this album that’s sloppy or poorly thought out.
Nowhere Is Home recalls the pleasing laid-back riffs of its tonal partner song Emerald Haze. It’s a poignant song about family and wanting to belong. Unrequited love in Halo follows similar melodic patterns, delivered with the acerbic jabs of the vocal and the muscular riffs. With Passenger Federal Charm have made a massive statement about their musical identity. They have worked hard to get the recognition that they have done so far and are not prepared to sit back on their laurels and get stuck producing mediocrity. This album is a testament to that mindset and dedication. It's crammed with energy, sophisticated songwriting and plenty of old-school rock charm. It’s good to have them back.
Groupie Rating 4/5