Album Review: Kory Clarke – “Payback’s A Bitch”
Following on from last year’s Warrior Soul album Stiff Middle Finger, Kory Clarke has evidently been a busy man and has already come up with a set of new songs which he’s chosen to release as a solo album. Now, for the cynical amongst you who might be saying “erm, hold on a sec, Kory Clarke pretty much is Warrior Soul nowadays, isn’t he?”, let me help clear this up for you, because there is a definite dividing line between the two. While “Stiff Middle Finger” was very much a serious political diatribe and very dark musically, Payback’s A Bitch sees Kory throw all his other influences together and create something pretty damn good.
Initially, it seems as though it’s going to be a straight ahead riffathon as the opening one-two of the title track and Freak blast through on meaty AC/DC style riffs reminiscent of Kory’s old band from a decade or so back, Dirty Rig. But as early as track three, the dark electro-rock of Devil’s Highway, you get the first curveball, and from then on, it’s pretty much a case of Kory chucking them at you with an almost sadistic glee. Pedal steel driven country ballad? Check, that’ll be What Good Is Goodbye, which sounds as though it could’ve been on one of Ricky Warwick’s solo albums. Slice of Chillis-indebted funk rock complete with horn section? That’ll be the Wall Street bashing Get Down To Bizzness. Hilarious tongue-in-cheek slice of camper-than-a-field-full-of-tents Euro trip-hop? That’ll be the ridiculously catchy Jagermeister Machines.
Along the way we also get slices of ’80s style mainstream rock (Hoezone – seriously, try listening to it without envisaging it as the entrance theme to some Bratpack movie circa 1986… well, if it wasn’t for the sharp anti-Hollywood lyrics but again, that’s part of the fun of this album, there’s always Kory’s very sharp words lurking beneath even the poppiest songs on here), bar room blues (the quite lovely The Last Hand which could almost be The Quireboys if you squint a bit) and even a big epic soaring ballad to finish matters (Meet Me In Las Vegas, and yes, he amazingly does manage to pull it off brilliantly without sounding schmaltzy – the sound you can hear in the background is Axl and Slash both turning green with envy) which will have the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end.
In short, this is the last thing you would have expected from Kory Clarke, and that’s what makes it such an unexpected triumph. If you were foolish enough to have this man written off as a politico-rock one trick pony, then this will prove you wrong in jaw-dropping fashion. And the fact that there isn’t a weak song on here (several of ’em would be hits in waiting for a more commercially fortunate singer) only reinforces what a great album it is. Go give it a listen.
Prepare to be astonished. Payback's A Bitch sees Kory Clarke well and truly spreading his wings, taking on several musical styles and triumphing at all of them in a manner that would surely have Ginger Wildheart nodding his head in approval. Quite simply, this is an essential album from a man well and truly on top of his game. Highly recommended.