REVIEW: Classless Act – Welcome to the Show

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The time has come at long last, so welcome to the show! If you’re straightening your monocle, tipping your top hat, and adjusting your tails for a class act, well my good sir, you are in the wrong place! There is no mensch to be found here, for this is CLASSLESS ACT we’re listening to and the show is “Welcome to the Show,” their debut album! Better Noise Music has been holding out on us for some time, letting these young fellows do a full tour alongside DOROTHY and JOYOUS WOLF before letting their debut drop. Well, June 24th, 2022, is the day, so mark your calendars and keep an eye open if you’re in the US and happen to be checking out The Stadium Tour 2022.

It seems like, if Better Noise Music thinks you’re worth picking up, that also means you’re worth introducing to some of their other bands; it happened when they paired up Cory Marks with Ivan Moody, Travis Tritt, and Mick Mars, and it’s happened again here with the self-titled first track of this album, “Classless Act,” which features Vince Neil of MÖTLEY CRÜE fame on guest vocals. It’s a daring move to commit your self-titled first album track to a guest appearance, yet Vince Neil‘s contribution to the song feels so natural that there’s no question that vocalist Derek Day can take care of things during a show. Guitarists Griffin Tucker and Dane Pieper show off their chops, keeping a slick rhythm with strong soloing. Furthermore, this song sounds straight out of a classic rock band (like CRÜE)’s discography, both in guitar sound and the singing style Derek uses. He sounds like he’s so excited to get your night started and if you’re not in a good mood, well, you’re about to be! It’s just the sort of song to listen to if you want to start up a good night, be it at home or at a live show, or wherever. If you’re looking for an upbeat banger of a track to kick off an album, this is one hell of a choice!

The album blasts forward with not just the one, but three of the band’s singles, thus followed by “This Is for You” and “Time to Bleed.” The former features a guitar solo by Justin Hawkins (THE DARKNESS); this generally awesome song keeps up the strong energy with a good hard rock vibe, with an easy-to-enjoy groove and a really fun singalong chorus. The strong rhythms make it nigh impossible not to want to dance around, yet it doesn’t feel like cheesy party-rock whatsoever, and that means they pulled off a nah-nah part. No wonder Justin Hawkins was on board; we all secretly know that THE DARKNESS are no joke! Put this on your playlist for best feel-good tracks for the summer.

The latter single, “Time to Bleed,” has become somewhat of a favorite over time, though the favorites do tend to change now and then because the album is just so fun. It starts on a catchy, simple guitar line before Derek comes in and shows a little bit of a different style of singing. This track is a fun change-up for him, as it doesn’t use so much of his highest range, allowing him to explore a totally different way of singing. It has a nice rise towards the end as well – it’s great when a song takes you somewhere you don’t expect.

If the album was starting to sound like a high-energy hard rock album, the band shake things up when they reach “On My Phone,” which has a very different mood. Chuck McKissock gets an overdue shoutout here, for really keeping the drumming interesting. You may know how much I hate a basic disco beat and the drumming on this album has proven to be pleasantly stylish. This track’s laidback groove fully balances out the extremely and almost overly modern lyrics (I may be too old for songs that reference Reddit, I confess). However, this song has some of the most dramatic moments, with big anthemic choir-amped choruses towards the end and really magnificent guitar-work layered in the background. It’s not a song for every mood, but when the mood strikes, this one is just right.

Chuck gets to show off a little more at the beginning of the almost punkish opening to “All That We Are,” which has a really fun beat that reminds me of something that I can’t quite put my finger on, which is exactly how much I want a song to remind me of other songs! Even the chorus feels like it could be from perhaps an artist not unlike OASIS, as it’s got the right speed and drama, but the dual guitars and funky bass make it so much more. The guitarists really did their work – there’s not a song where they let up and take it easy. As well, once again we have something a little different with Derek‘s singing, but there’s quite a bit of vocal layering in the song, so there’s plenty to explore here.

Another one of the most interesting songs on the album – for an unusual reason – is “Made in Hell.” First of all, there’s a pleasantly different intro done on… I want to say synth? Guitars come in with the drums and suddenly the tempo changes, the bass slides on in alongside Derek… woo! You may listen and think, it starts to sound a little familiar, no? Like some part of this song has been heard already. It took me some time but I believe it was a boy band that was hot a few years back called ONE DIRECTION who released a song called “What Makes You Beautiful” that shares some similarities in its verse melodies with this track. Okay, but teasing aside, this familiarity is only in the verses and towards the beginning of the song. The rest of it, believe me, sounds nothing like ONE DIRECTION. The songs don’t even synch up anymore by the bridge, and then we go into one of the wildest choruses where Derek fully lets loose his high wails, while in other parts drops and gets a little grittier, making it all seem effortless.

Everything on the album is pretty solid, but one of my personal highlights is “Storm Before the Calm.” First of all, I love me a little wordplay and swapping the “calm before the storm” around works deliciously for the linguist in me. Secondly, the mysterious and seductive way Derek and one of the guitarists take the lead is magnificent, and the slow yet smooth vibe that follows in the verses is perfection, as Derek slides notes around here and there. Then the soft punch into the chorus makes it powerful without spoiling the tofu. It’s one of those perfect songs that comes mid-album when you’ve had lots of fast songs keeping you at maximum power, leaving you ready for a break, but you still want to feel like you’ve been kicked in the pants. More unusual vocal experimentation, wonderful guitars with spicy little wails thrown in at all the right times, strong bass by Franco Gravante that could’ve maybe been a little more notable, and intriguing drums that keep things interesting, the song has it all. Oh, also, it just so happens to feature Derek Day‘s best wail on the album. Mic drop.

There’s a straightforward punchiness to “Haunting Love,” which also happens to be one of the songs where it seems like Derek gets to have the most fun, as it includes lots of ohh-ohh parts, as well as aye-yay-yays in the chorus; he also just goes a little nuts at the end and it’s great. These guys really feel as if they’ve been doing this for a long time, as the songs are so confidently good. Of course, having a big label certainly doesn’t hurt, but it seems BNM has a good eye for aspiring artists. Even though the lyrics of this track are a bit melancholic, the atmosphere of the song is so fun that it’s hard to feel bad while relating to the sad parts of it.

Tired of hard rock by now? Well, “Walking Contradiction” throws a little percussive blues into the intro mix, though the guitar riffing also remains extremely slick and fun, picking up with a punky beat before going pure groovy. Then the guitars just have some fun for a while before setting into a rather dank rhythm. However, when you least expect it, there’s something in the chorus that brings “Helena” by MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE to mind. What an astounding turn of events. Then, before you know it, you’re rockin’ out to the guitars again and Derek is back to singing wild tales. The song is certainly unpredictable!

When I spoke to Derek Day last year, he had been under the impression that Give it to Me would be the first song on the album, so I was rather surprised and interested to find it so far towards the end. This was their first official single and remains one of their best songs generally: with a great guitar solo and a really fun music video, “Give it to Me” is a great first hit song that set a high standard that the band have consistently met with every following release. Putting it towards the end of the album gives listeners something warm and familiar right before the album takes its final dramatic turns and wraps up with two far more artsy tracks.

Do I detect a hint of a somewhat Scottish folk sound in “Circles”? Well, I can’t say how the band would define the acoustic sound of this track, but this is likely the slowest track on the album and boy does it throw a curveball from the rest of the material. It has a tiny hint of the drama of JOURNEY‘s “Don’t Stop Believing,” but is a lot less cheesy because it’s not lyrically romantic. There is a sort of positive melancholy to the song, as if someone is learning a life lesson throughout the track: it’s not easy – in fact, it rather sucks – but you come out stronger on the other end. Add a healthy dose of guitar and voila! It’s a pretty excellent way to build up to the last song.

Finally, we come to “Thoughts from a Dying Man.” With a big cinematic name like that… all right, let’s see what you’ve got! Well, turns out, they actually do a pretty damn good job. There’s some keyboards and dramatic vocals, with a nice slow buildup featuring really depressing lyrics. Despite the brutality, it once again feels like the band doesn’t want you to be sad. I couldn’t say exactly how they do this, but they manage to pull off melancholy without feeling horrendously cheesy or melodramatic. There’s something down-to-earth and positive in there that makes even the darkest lyrics feel hopeful, without being annoying at the same time. Also, I feel like a bit of a broken record, but the guitars are great. Someday, this song needs to be a track that they pull out of the archive to close out an anniversary tour before the encore. If my biggest criteria for a final track is to leave the listener wanting more, this song certainly does the job.

I fully admit that I came into this review after three or four singles, fully ready to announce CLASSLESS ACT as the new GUNS ‘N’ ROSES, but after listening to the album, I feel like that comparison would do this band a massive disservice. The singles have played a rather naughty little trick on us listeners, showing off their great upbeat hard rock bangers, but they’ve kept the most classless gems a secret for the album-listeners. If you were just hoping for pure wild party rock, you’re in for a surprise, as there’s a lot more depth of sound to be found on “Welcome to the Show.” From blues and jazz, to alternative and grunge, there’s nothing these guys won’t try out. If Cory Marks was able to nudge the door of country music open to be a bit more rock ‘n’ roll again, CLASSLESS ACT kicked the garage rock door right off its hinges. The sound is clean but not overly produced, but rather sounds like a bunch of guys in a room together having fun. If this is the first album where they’re behaving themselves and trying to make a good impression… damn, I can’t wait to see what happens once they have their feet firmly on the ground! Daring to dip their toes into a wide variety of genres while keeping it light and fun, CLASSLESS ACT manage to pull off their debut album with – no joke – an amazing amount of class!

Tracklist

  1. Classless Act ft. Vince Neil
  2. This Is for You ft. Justin Hawkins
  3. Time to Bleed
  4. On My Phone
  5. All that We Are
  6. Made in Hell
  7. Storm Before the Calm
  8. Haunting Love
  9. Walking Contradiction
  10. Give it to Me
  11. Circles
  12. Thoughts from a Dying Man

Lineup

Derek Day – vocals

Griffin Tucker – guitar

Dane Pieper – guitar

Franco Gravante – bass

Chuck McKissock – drums

Label

Better Noise Music

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