South London’s Last of the Misfit Heroes have nailed a lot of things with their first substantive offering – the album’s title without doubt one of them. If ever there was a reminder that music can be both salve and stimulus in the darkest of times, it’s Hope for the Hopeless, a heartfelt outing built on the kind of stomping riffs and rhythms that just make you glad to be alive. Let’s face it, if you can still discover a band like this in the midst of global meltdown then there must be more than a glint of light in the gloom.
It comes as no real surprise to learn that the contents rose from troubled waters: frontman and guitarist Steve Catt has spoken in interviews about the trio’s formation coming out of a real low point for him, almost as a challenge to keep pushing on. Catt had played with drummer cousin Chris Catt and bassist Anj Jackman in the past but this project, begun in April 2019, marked a whole rethink. Their debut EP Misfit, Misplaced – featuring four whopping portions of punk-meets-grunge – was so well received that they soon found themselves back in the studio adding another six.
So here we have the full misfit manifesto – and if there’s a cure for uniformity then this is surely it. If you like your gargantuan rock hooks with a moody, alternative vibe then it’ll get your vote.
This band has two things going for it that even the most musically proficient outfits sometimes lack. The first is honesty: you can’t listen to Steve Catt’s straightforward, hypnotic-sounding vocals and not believe him. The second is spark: maybe it’s the way producer Dan Lucas has fostered their biggest, gutsiest, live-sounding side, but there’s an exciting feel you can’t quite put your finger on – a sense they’ve hit on the chemistry at just the right time. They’ve definitely had some fun, too. Several tracks have intros and outros plundered from the film archives and newsreels (Bombs, for instance, is preceded by Trump taking a pop at ‘rocket man’). Add to that an ability to mitigate tough subjects with droll lyrics and you have plenty of reasons to play on repeat.
Creating a Monster, one of the new numbers here, is a fist-to-the-guts thumper with Seventies punk overtones that squarely sets out the no-nonsense agenda. Meanwhile, Misfit, Misplaced, originally from the EP, has a Nirvana-meets-Mudhoney thrashiness and Pieces, also from that first clutch of songs, spotlights Jackman’s enormous, gritty bass sound while giving space to some brilliantly blunt lines: ‘You kept your promise/I broke all mine’ admits Catt with a candour close to genius.
Elsewhere, there’s Pulling Punches, which rocks along catchily while delivering all the promised blows, and Demons, all about those pesky inner devils, where punk-tastic pace gives way to a potent, angsty chorus.
But the real corker here is Dead Behind the Eyes, built on a mouth-watering British-metal-style riff, which in just shy of three minutes manages to turn into something truly compelling. You can’t help thinking that a lesser band might have milked that riff for much longer (all the same, where are the days of the 12-inch remix when you need them?).
On the strength of this, it’s fair to say Last of the Misfit Heroes are more than just the antidote to wall-to-wall beige.
They might just be the antidote to…well, just about everything.
Hope for the Hopeless is available at Bandcamp
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