From a healing perspective, Phil Campbell couldn’t have picked a better time to engage full-on in a project post-MOTÖRHEAD. What he must feel at this point in rock history, now that “Fast” Eddie Clarke has joined Lemmy Kilmister and “Philthy” Phil Taylor in the afterlife, MOTÖRHEAD‘s faded classic lineup. Ol’ Wizzo clocked in 32 years with that band, playing not only with honor, but at a level of excellence sustaining the band far longer than it might’ve without him and the equally spectacular Mikkey Dee.
In late 2016, Campbell—in league with his three sons Todd, Tyla and Dane (all legitimate, for the record) and vocalist Neil Starr—emerged with an EP as the rock quintet, PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS. You can imagine the proverbial pots and pans flying from Wizzo‘s wife at the revelation of this moniker, which was chosen by Starr. In a recent interview with Revolver, Campbell stated “…at least I had a quiet three days.” Expected smarm from a guy long riding shotgun with the king of smarm.
This year, PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS release the group’s debut full-length, no irony lost in its title, “The Age of Absurdity”. With a bonus track cover of HAWKWIND‘s “Silver Machine”, featuring an appearance by Dave Brock himself on vocals and guitar, call the circle of irony complete.
While the EP didn’t necessarily carry any MOTÖRHEAD hangovers, this time, Phil Campbell and his ragtag juniors can’t help themselves. MOTÖRHEAD has to manifest, as early as the blasting opening track, “Ringleader”. Yet the grit of the old irons is there merely as a foundation. The choruses are contemporary and fitting for Neil Starr‘s youthful ruggedness.
The equally brisk “Freak Show”, “Dropping the Needle” and “Gypsy King” are more in tandem with SWEET and MÖTLEY CRÜE with wafts of MOTÖRHEAD on the verses. These cuts purr while ramming a steel shank up the collective bums of its audience. Tyla Campbell‘s bass will please longtimers on “Gypsy King”. This is a tight and fun vibe bridging not only two generations in body, but in sound. “Skin and Bones” and “Welcome to Hell” are cooked from late ‘80s sleaze rock, i.e. L.A. GUNS and SMASHED GLADYS, yet there’s an updated agro swagger to the band.
The dusty drawl of “Dark Days” harkens back to the same era when rockers were all but expected by labels to drop a once-fashionable nod to country and blues. It’s passed off here with a shrewd, ‘80s pop rock swing and Phil Campbell pays off with a sweltering solo. “High Rule” and the DIO-meets-LOVERBOY epic “Into the Dark” is as slow as this album gets; you can still feel a sweat, generated particularly on “High Rule”‘s heaving choruses.
Few new acts dwelling in Retroville for inspiration pull the full monty of the past. Meaning—they may capture an essence but not the entire impact. It can’t be understated, the reason why PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS works so bloody well is because the generation gap has been eroded by family bonds. This is a band led by a veteran rocker bearing chops from multiple eras. He’s teamed here with a gaggle of youngbloods who know how to satisfy his expectations while giving his conventions a brash and wholly logical makeover.