Once a hotbed for new rock, Australia has been fairly quiet on the FM radio front for quite a while now. Aside from Gotye and his indie-pop peers, nothing much from the land down under has gripped the American mainstream, which is quite unfortunate considering how groups like INXS, Midnight Oil, and Crowded House were such commercial heavyweights stateside a few decades ago. Stormcellar have the hooks and red meat to pillage Yankee waters if given the opportunity.
On their latest album, Hired Guns & Borrowed Glory, Stormcellar knit together their country and blues influences for a distinctly classic-rock flavor. At times the band sounds like James Taylor fronting the Rolling Stones; that is, if Taylor had a bigger set of balls and the Stones scratched off the AOR polish they were painted with since the late ‘70s. “Same Old Blues” is ironic because it’s a lot less traditional than its title implies; then again, its meaning describes more of an emotional state than a musical style. Slamming drums and big, chunky riffs power the track with bar-band oomph.
Speaking of the Stones, “Suit Yourself” is awash with Keith Richards-fueled riffage; it kicks like a stubborn mule. Stormcellar are equally effective in their relatively mellow efforts as well such as on “Light in the Distance.” Enveloped in layers of atmosphere, there’s a sense of isolation in the song and a feeling of impending doom with just a smoking guitar solo offering any relief. Lyrically speaking, “Hard Times” provides the group’s punchiest two-fisted moment, a political diatribe that sings a working man’s blues with swampy rhythms and a bad-ass harmonica.