Released: 2011, Independent
Does anybody out there remember early ‘90s Canadian hard rockers Slik Toxik? For a brief moment they looked like they were going to break big with a couple of hit singles, “Helluvatime” and “White Lies, Black Truth”. Sadly, like most bands of the era, they were swept away by the changing musical tides brought on by grunge and alternative. Still, the dedicated keep going, and vocalist Nick Walsh is one such individual. In the last twenty years he’s kept the hard rock flame alive in his hometown of Toronto with several bands, the last of which, Revolver, finally morphed into the band we have now.
One listen to the opening song, “Wasteland”, shows that Famous Underground are a much heavier beast than Slik Toxik ever were, the dual guitar attack crunchy as hell, the riffs harder than Walsh’s glammy past might suggest. Make no mistake though, the music is catchy as hell, lead by Walsh’s ever-charismatic vocals, spiced nicely with backing vocals by bass player Laurie-Anne Green. As the album moves on, the band covers all the hard rock bases, including a couple of heartfelt ballads (the best is “On Broken Wings”) and a vitriol-filled little boogie called “Mommy is a Junkie”. Sadly, the band packs their best songs into the first three tracks, leaving the rest of the album trying to play catch-up and not quite making it. That said, there’s not a truly bad song on the album.
The big difference between Famous Underground and Slik Toxik is the changed outlook on life. Whereas the Slik ones were full of youthful enthusiasm, this new band carries the weight of twenty years of broken dreams that come with going through the rock ‘n roll wringer. It lends the music a maturity that can only come from experience, and having seen these guys live, I can say that you can see it in their performances as well.
Set all that aside and what you have is a genuinely good hard rock album, filled with well-crafted, catchy songs. If you’re interested in a modern spin on classic rock, I highly recommend Famous Underground.