Confident, triumphant, dramatic. Straight in at the deep end after 3 years of silence, the first song in Deep Purple’s new album Whoosh! is classic rock at its most theatrical: think Javert at the barricades with elements of Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell. Drama aside though, ‘Throw my Bones’, despite its ghoulish name, poses a thoroughly relatable question: why should I leave my comfort zone and walk into the terrifying “great unknown”?
Some old rock bands really don’t age well, but Deep Purple isn’t one of them: quite the opposite, in fact. My guitar playing has moved on from ‘Smoke on the Water’ and, fortunately, so has their music style. This 7th August release, their 21st album, feels fresh yet distinctly Purple, reminiscent of their most successful hits of the early 70s. And the name? Singer Ian Gillan explained it as representing “the transient nature of humanity on earth” when viewed from space. Maybe I’ll use that in one of my philosophy essays.
Defying easy categorisation as well as Earth’s gravity, the band is often said to span several musical genres. Whoosh! does not disappoint, floating around a range of different styles. As perhaps a homage of sorts to Pink Floyd, the lunar-themed track ‘Power of the Moon’ borrows heavily from the psychedelic rock of Deep Purple’s early years. From ‘Drop the Weapon’’s Elvis Costello vibe comes the chaotic chromatics of ‘No need to shout’, which could as easily be by Metallica. Just to really keep you on your toes, they throw in the energetic riffs and 12-bar blues-style of ‘What the what’, with a Berry-esque showbiz ending that Marty McFly might have played at his parent’s high school dance.
I’ve been pretty positive about the album so far, but it certainly didn’t have me enthused from start to finish. Constant time signature changes, such as in ‘Step by step’, felt disjointed and unsettling, although, in all honesty, those never sit right with me in heavy metal songs. Similarly, the last three songs in the album didn’t seem to add much other than unnecessary running length and another round of Spotify ads. Given the album’s first track, I thought the conclusion would have similar razzmatazz. Alas.
The highlight of the album, as far as I am concerned, is a dreamy, fast-paced bop by the name of ‘Nothing at all’. It has a shape and flow to it that very few songs could match: it reminded me, in that sense, of Billy Joel’s ‘Piano Man’. The lyrics, as is my preference, hit quite hard, continuing the album’s main concept: the ease of just ignoring the rapid compound time of modern life as it pushes on. Procrastination and avoidance, we’ve all been there, and that’s certainly part of what this song is about. Yet it is also pretty cheery, which makes you wonder what the connection between the stress of modern life, perpetual procrastination and enjoyment really are. Maybe those dark, tedious ending songs are just the feeling you get when the object of your procrastination finally can be avoided no longer.
Time to lay all my cards on the table. I had never listened to any Deep Purple (other than Smoke on the Water) before I first heard this album – until recently, I didn’t have long enough hair. And I’m certainly no metalhead now, but I will say that those effortless riffs and thoughtful lyrics will definitely make it into one of my playlists.
Featured image: Deep Purple photographed in 1968, via Wikipedia Public Domain.