Anchor Lane are a young Scottish band in the Classic rock mould, hailing from Glasgow and continuing a proud tradition of cracking bands from that city. They’ve been together since (I think) 2017, having released a 4-track EP New Beginnings that year. Since then, they’ve plied their trade in the time-honoured manner, touring constantly and playing as support to such Luminaries as Tremonti and Cheap Trick, and appearing at a raft of festivals including Isle of Wight, Belladrum and Download. These live performances have been noted and appreciated by a growing fanbase, and this, their debut album arrives with a good deal of anticipation.
The band is a classic four-piece, comprising singer Conor Gaffney, guitarist Lawrence O’Brien, bassist Matthew Quigley and drummer Scott Hanlon, all in their early twenties. Don’t be fooled though, their age belies the maturity of their song-writing and the quality of the material here stems from being steeped in the best traditions of heavy rock – for me, the sound of this album is a great blend of contemporary and earlier styles. There’s reflections of Soundgarden, Inglorious, Temperance Movement and Shinedown here, but also Bad Company and Paul Rodgers – so we’re talking real quality here! They also remind me of where another young band, Tax The Heat, were a year or so ago, and they’re perhaps stronger than them, so the portents are definitely good!
And so to the music: First up is “Blood and Irony”, which in itself is a great title and hooks you in with a deceptively gentle and hypnotic loping riff before some short but blistering guitar work introduces power chords and chorus that finish the song off very satisfyingly. At 2 minutes 47 seconds it’s a perfect little sing-along “single material” opener that showcases the vocal talents of frontman Gaffney and highlights the tunefulness of this band. “Fame Shame” is the one actually being promoted as the first single, and is more of a “rabble-rouser” stadium anthem whilst having a dig at modern society’s fascination with social media and reality TV. Voodoo in contrast is a slower, classic blues howler that chugs satisfyingly.
The album is called Casino as a metaphor for the “all in or quit” nature of the music industry as a whole. The band make the point that they collectively decided to all give up their 9 to 5 jobs and go for it, on the basis that the rewards are worth the risks. The title track alludes to that while alluding to on-off relationships as well. “Clocks” starts off as though Jimi H himself is back, before Conor’s voice curls in, again with strong similarities to Tax The Heat. “Stone Cold Hearted” continues the mix of Bad Company / Inglorious, strong song-writing with strong performances that could date from anytime over the last 50 years – which for me is top-drawer.
“Shell of Me” slows things down again, a beautiful little ballad with understated guitar, timeless melody and choruses, really strong tuneful vocals and topped with lovely lead solo. “Flatline” is ok…I have to say it’s a dumb chorusline but they’re forgiven, perfection first time out would be boring! “Dead Run” definitely has that heavyweight Stateside chorus that you’d expect from Black Star Riders or Shinedown, before “Honey” signs off the album with another really strong combination of powerful rangy vocals, classic riffs, cool solos and a powerhouse rhythm – they are indeed a surprisingly mature unit and I can imagine them being great live.
The band has benefitted from a great production, courtesy of Toby Jepson, who’s also worked with Wayward Sons and Little Angels, so they’re in good company. Toby himself is quick to praise the band’s sense of vision, and intuitive and intelligent song-writing. They’ve also had the benefit of co-writing contributions on two songs (Blood and Irony, and Dead Run) from Ricky Warwick of Black Star Riders and The Almighty, learning from Rick’s straight-forward, direct approach to song-writing, although Ricky himself believes they already have everything it takes in their toolkit to succeed. As a whole, the album is packed with immense sounding up-tempo tracks that showcase the band as a genuinely interesting new force to be reckoned with.