50 years ago, if you did an English degree, you studied Shakespeare. Now you study what somebody wrote about what somebody wrote about what somebody wrote about Shakespeare (according to my friend who has an English Masters). In many ways it’s the same with rock: 50 years ago you listened to Muddy Waters, now you listen to Fox and the Law who copied Led Zeppelin who copied Muddy Waters. And it’s gonna keep on keepin’ on: go on any musicians boards and you will see the ever present ad “bass player wanted for band…influences include…Led Zep, ACDC, Sabbath.”
Before listening, you know what to expect from Stoned to Death. The titles will be like ACDC song titles (Nod to the Devil, Up All Night). Three’s a crowd when it comes to the number of notes in a chord. And the guitarist knows A minor pentatonic scale. They love to change aggressively to the fourth chord to let you know they’re about to launch into a chorus.
Also Fox & the Law. This is a scrivener’s dream. They could be FATL….Fox &…or maybe just “The Law”. Perhaps they will do a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and make it different every time.
In fairness to Fox & the Law, they don’t hide what they are. It says in the record company blurb that they are influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan (who was influenced by Hendrix, who was influenced by Buddy Guy….you get the idea). There is something very likeable about FATL being upfront about the fact that they are a cliché. There is a band from the North called The Answer, the name suggesting that they view themselves as some sort of Galileo Galilei solving the problems of the musical universe, when in reality they sound like the sort of music middle aged men listen to whilst driving. Viagra rock.
It’s nice that Fox & are from Seattle because what I was listening for was for The Law to be able to bring the cathartic rush of Mudhoney to their Led Sabbath/DC template. The Datsuns were able to do this and they were brilliant. Unfortunately, almost every track sounds on the album sounds like a pale imitation of a better track from a better band. Cheap Talk is a strident opener, but mostly because it sounds like Eye of the Tiger for people who don’t own black leather fingerless mittens. Nod to the Devil is The Stooges’ Shake Appeal but still pretty nicely Datsunesque. Emily is the best track, with lead playing reminiscent of the fills on early Guns ‘n’ Roses tracks like Nighttrain or Out Ta Get Me. The rhythm side of things channels Fu Manchu at their best. For the first minute, it does sound very like L7’s Shitlist but Fox Etc flex their technical muscles after the second chorus and it really takes off. The dynamics of the song are very compelling, as good as any tempo/volume changes you will hear on Physical Graffiti. How they managed to write, rehearse and record Heatstroke without someone saying “dude, this is just Oye Como Va” is one of the great mysteries of the universe.
I’m not accusing F to the L of stealing other peoples’ music. If I gave you a toaster and some bread, you’re gonna make….toast. By restricting themselves to a certain sound, they have donned an aesthetic straitjacket. Some people don’t like the guitar because they think that guitar bands are musical recyclists. This is like a judge who orders a dog to be put down because it bit someone. The owner of the guitar/dog is often the one at fault. Someone needs to put up an advert that says “guitarist wanted, must have never heard of Led Zep, GnR, ACDC.”