Gasoline Outlaws emerged on to the Northern Ireland rock scene at the turn of this year, when former Black Freeway/Last Known Addiction singer Matt Fitzsimons, freshly returned from a sojourn down under, re-united with his brother Chris and in turn teamed up with former Yellow Sam guitarist Adam Parkin and Pay*Ola drummer Adam Callaghan. The quartet immediately launched themselves into the local live arena, with a storming debut performance at the legendary Diamond Rock Club – a showing so impressive they sold out of their first run of T shirts almost instantly.
In between increasingly impressive live gigs, the band have been ensconced in the suitably named Einstein Studios with producer extraordinaire Frankie McClay, producing this, their debut album, to be released next weekend. And a more impressive, hard-hitting, intensely passionate and restoratively joyful debut you are unlikely to come across this year. And I’m not just saying that because I know the guys in the band: because, they, in turn, know me well enough as a critic to understand that I tell it exactly as it is – with honesty and integrity, without cognizance to debts of friendship… If something is shite, I will hand on heart say so; equally, if something – such as ‘No Rules No Laws No Regrets’ is possibly the most “impressive, hard-hitting, intensely passionate and restoratively joyful” debut album you will hear this year, then I will gladly scream same from the rooftops of Belfast’s red-bricked Victorian heartland.
Opener ‘Nothing On Me’ (also the debut single and video, which is streaming at the end of this review) rumbles over the horizon like Mad Max with the smell of much-needed petroleum in his nostrils. It has a dark crunching riff which epitomizes the Outlaws’ southern-tinged traditional rawk ‘n’ roll groove, with Parkin grinding out the main riff over Callaghan and Fitzsimons’ tight, solid rhythmics: the former is obviously relishing playing in a heavier style as he adds neat little fills and double-kick harmonics, while the latter’s finger-picked style adds a lushness and depth. Matt, meanwhile, is the epitomy of the “the wee man with the big voice” as, standing five foot fuck all in his sock soles, he delivers a performance more than capable of stripping the sand off Portstewart Strand.
‘Lie’ possesses an anger and viciousness which is restrained in its musical delivery but given full fury in Matt’s spitting, acidic vocal, while the twisting, winding ‘The Shrouded Wolves’ snaps and snarls with bloodthirsty intent, and is the first song to see Matt move towards the cleaner, upper end of his register – without losing any of his gritty passion – while Parkin delivers another acerbic, tactfully brief solo. The acoustic-led ‘Stand As One’ is poignant rallying call against the street politics which dominate this part of the world, as Matt asks “What are we teaching our children today / Throw bricks and stones so they can have their say” before advising that “We have to stand as one / Side by Side / Stand as one to let the people decide / Stand as one so we don’t turn back time”.
‘Come On’ rocks things up again, with Parkin’s driving riff underpinned by Chris F’s thumping bass groove before Matt introduces his most sensual, sexually-provacative (and, according to her indoors, arousing) performance, with the song brought truly to life by the guitarist’s blazing solo section. ‘Outlaws’ is a hard-edged 100 mph pedal-to-the-tarmac hard rockin’ anthem that roars along like the Dunlop brothers ’round the TT circuit, while ‘Ready To Fly’ is a darkly joyous anthem to leaving the negativity of the past behind and moving forward with positivity (perhaps influenced by Matt’s aforementioned trip to Australia?), which culminates with one of Matt’s most ardently ferocious contributions and a surprisingly vicious double kick beatdown from Callaghan.
‘Someday’ eases things back again, and pleasantly so: a bourbon-soaked paean to loss, it’s mournful feel nevertheless redemptive and hopeful, characterized again by Matt’s rich vocal and Parkin’s sublime, searing guitar work. The title of ‘Heart & Soul’ tells you everything you need to know both about the song and the album as a whole: a crunching, triumphant – and slightly ironic – fist-punching anthem, it’s a homage to the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and the self-belief that is needed for bands and fans alike. ‘Rising Up’ ends the album on a suitably upbeat note, delivering another statement of intent from this young (but highly experienced) band of rock ‘n’ roll outlaws who have delivered a short, sharp shock to the Northern Irish rock scene and proven that they quickly found their feet and are ready to pour everything they have into what they do – as well as add further proof to the argument that this particular part of the planet we call Mosh has one of the most energetic, vibrant and, most importantly, diverse rock and metal scenes around.
You get the overall feeling that each and every one of these songs is deeply personal to each and every one of the band members, and that they are drawn from deep within their individual and collective souls. The result is an album which reflects this: dark and dense yet joyous and celebratory, delivered with passionate fury and furious passion in equal measures – and an essential listen for all genuine fans of good old-fashioned honest-to-goodness, no excuses – or should that be no rules, no laws, no regrets – rock ‘n’f’n’ roll.
Nothing On Me / Lie / The Shrouded Wolves / Stand As One / Come On / Outlaws / Ready To Fly / Someday / Heart & Soul / Rising Up
Recommended listening: Nothing On Me
‘No Rules No Laws No Regrets’ is self-released by the band on Saturday June 20, when they also play a launch show at the Diamond Rock Club, Ahoghill (with support from Conjuring Fate). Both Gasoline Outlaws and Conjuring Fate also play Highway To Hell in Sheffield on September 5/6.
Live photos of Matt Fitzsimons by The Dark Queen (c) PlanetMosh 2015.