A tale of two reviews. It was the best of albums, it was the worst of albums. When I first listened to Worlds Collide by Tricky Lobster I was convinced it was a fun, rocking tribute to the hard rock bands I grew up on, like Mountain, Grand Funk and Uriah Heep. Over the course of several listens my views changed. The record became a somewhat sad callback to the shabby post grunge rock of Creed or Nickelback. Well, it can’t be both, can it?
Yes, of course it can. Because the intervening years between the early 70’s hard rock and the early 00’s hard rock have changed the game, but not the pieces. Those pieces being distorted guitars, heavy 4x drumming and slightly tough-guy emphatic singing. And so Tricky Lobsters’ sound draws from what seems to be two styles, but are actually one style, but a style that is perspective dependent. I am old enough to remember when a heavy rocking riff-laden song was fresh and a little intimidating. I am also old enough to remember when it was hack-on-hack.
Which leaves me as a writer with the same problem, but at least now you can understand my dilemma. And it is this: when this band is hitting on all cylinders, it is a great deal of fun. Take the opening track, “Bitter Man’s Fame”. A good old “Easy Living” rocker that gives what any decent heavy rock song should: power and movement. Fuzzed-out bass, massive drums and modernish guitars, with a little keyboard and a lot of smoked-out throaty mid-tone singing. It moves perfectly in the post-hippy seventies style.
Or look at what I feel is the best track on the record, “Big Book”. Starting with a broken, funked-up bass lick reminiscent of “Supernaught” by Black Sabbath, only opened up and stretched wide over the measure, the song dives face first into “Space Lord” style heaviness that satisfies like a Snickers in vodka. Even the sentiment behind the track, that all the peace and love and humanity we like to go on about amounts to so much shitty religious pandering in the end lands this dive bombed monster directly on the deck of our carrier.
Mind you, none of the best tracks on this record are innovative or technically masterful, but they FEEL right in your ears. Like the songs by AC/DC you heard after you heard your first song by AC/DC, the fact that they are essentially the same thing over and over is somehow mitigated by how perfectly and enthusiastically the band does what it does.
So if Tricky Lobsters could have kept that pace and drive up for the rest of the record, this would be a hard rock gem. Sadly, they did not. The band decides to take the standard route of slower, darker compositions, and it drags the record down, because instead of just banging your head to some cool tunes you start comparing the band to other bands. And that is when they lose you.
It’s not that band starts sucking, either. “Father and Son” is decent heavy rocker, and even “Dreamdiver” with its overlong, played-to-death blues-ish intro gets a chance to redeem itself with a heavier, catchy chorus. These slower, darker songs are not bad at all. But they do expose the ghosts that this group is summoning to get their inspiration. Ghosts that cause you to reflect on Uriah Heep, then on grunge, then on post-grunge, because that is where these ghosts ultimately manifested. And before you know it you are wondering if Tricky Lobsters is really any more interesting than Live. At best you suppose they are on par with Monster Magnet, say. But is that good enough?
I can’t answer that for you. I can only say it tainted the experience of listening to this for me. But, again, I am very old and was there when this kind of stuff was cutting edge. I would say this record is better than any Creed or Nickelback just because it loves riffs, darkness and distortion more than either of those groups ever has. But I would also say that it is exactly nothing new, and nothing you can’t get elsewhere in almost the exact same package.
In the end, you can do a lot worse for your hard-rock fix than Worlds Collide. But honestly you don’t have to look very hard or far to find better. Will I listen to this again? Yes, especially the first three tracks, but I was not asked to pay for the privilege. Would I buy this? Again, maybe the first three tracks, but I doubt the whole record. This is not the band’s first outing, so this may be their sweet spot…but I hope they build on what works on this record, because as I said, when they get it right, they do have hard rock magic, and there is always a place for that magic in my collection.