• Melanie Henderson

Irish melody merchants at their crowd-pleasing best

The album cover might paint a grim outlook, but never fear – despite the rain-lashed imagery and the portentous title, Northern Ireland’s Trucker Diablo haven’t suddenly turned into the type of chaps who stare into half-empty pints and ponder the end of days.

Tail End of a Hurricane, while acknowledging our chaotic times, is less about the damage still to be wreaked than about what happens when the dust settles and the clouds begin to part. And, as fans of the four-piece will surely know by now, if anyone can steer us away from doom and gloom and into a country with a chorus round every corner it’s these dependable, hard-rocking melody merchants.

The 13-track collection showcases their classy, eminently singable brand of AOR at its best, blazing a trail to better days with lyrics celebrating perseverance and survival. But at its heart this is a true guitar band that can’t wait to make a serious racket – that means sickly balladry is off the menu in favour of mid-tempo crowd-pleasers that raise hell of the merriest kind. Basically, it’s what they’ve always done best – done even better.

In these still-unsettled days, the choice of the ultimate party decade as inspiration for the album’s most potent tonic is a stroke of genius. Rock Kids of the 80s, already released as a single, is all Bryan Adams meets Rick Springfield with much lyrical homage to the era’s giants: it’s an easy, breezy blast of the past – albeit with a modern twist – that aims for instant gratification (because when the main hook’s that good why waste time in getting there?)

Gratitude is the name of the game on I Am Still Alive, a great wedge of assured tunefulness, while Don’t Hold On to Hate is a positive homily that thrusts the chunky rhythm section to the fore while still allowing Simon Harte’s butter-melting vocals and stylish lead guitar plenty of limelight (the solos on all the tracks are a delight: all singing melody and no shameless swagger). But if you’re in the market for a full-on joyride get yourself an earful of Set the Night on Fire, where hedonistic pursuit gets the classic rock treatment – though the rebellion is served by way of mature song craft, of course.

There’s some serious weight and complexity here, too. Opener BTKOR (that’s Big Truck Keeps On Rolling if you’ve yet to clock the rock n’ roll haulage theme) comes on heavy with the histrionics, while the title track is an ambitious, multi-directional force negotiated seamlessly by a band brimful of melody and firepower. Insects, seemingly plucked straight from the punk archives, sticks two fingers up to internet trolls (though in true Trucker style they can’t resist pulling back the anger for another of those trademark choruses) and Slow Dance turns out not to be a slow dance at all but a steamy rocker with end-of-night fireworks in mind.

True, brighter times might still be some way off – but Trucker Diablo have at least guaranteed our ears some serious sunshine.

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