Roger Gilpin: Take It Back
There was a time when the terms “punk rock” and “singer/songwriter” were seldom used in the same sentence. Back in the late 1970s, many of the people who listened to Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Cat Stevens and Jackson Browne didn’t know what to make of the Sex Pistols, the Dead Boys, Black Flag or the Damned. But much has changed since then, and these days, there are countless members of Generation-X and Generation-Y who have spent much of their lives listening to both punk and singer/songwriters. To them, it’s perfectly logical that someone who appreciates the Clash or the Dead Kennedys would also appreciate Springsteen or Young. And on Take It Back, Philadelphia-based Roger Gilpin shows himself to be someone who has one foot in the singer/songwriter world and the other in the punk world. A variety of direct or indirect influences assert themselves on this ten-song digital album, ranging from the Sex Pistols and the Clash to Springsteen, Young and Leonard Cohen. Gilpin can be raw, snarling and in your face, or he can be melancholy and sadly introspective. But either way, he is edgy and consistently expressive.
Some of the uptempo rockers on Take It Back are overtly mindful of the classic old school punk (both American and British) of the late 1970s and early 1980s. That is especially true of
“No Future For You!,” “Hell No, You Can’t Control Me,” “Stop Calling Me” and “Freedom Is Never Free.” On “No Future For You!,” Gilpin draws heavily on two Sex Pistols’ classics: “Anarchy in the U.K.” and “No Future,” and his snarl recalls John Lydon, a.k.a. Johnny Rotten, before the Sex Pistols’ broke up and Public Image, Ltd. came about. In Gilpin’s publicity bio, the Ramones are cited as an influence. But on Take It Back, the Ramones’ influence is more melodic than lyrical. While the Ramones thrived on wacky, madcap, absurdist lyrics, Gilpin’s lyrics are much closer to the angry defiance of the Germs, Black Flag and Fear.
On other tracks, Gilpin is a lot more introspective. The Philly resident makes some Springsteen-ish moves on “One More Time,” and his adult alternative credentials are evident on the Neil Young-tinged “This Darkest Day” and the ballad “Make Up Your Mind.” All of those songs would work well on triple-A (adult album alternative) radio stations. “No Future For You!,” “Freedom Is Never Free,” “Hell No, You Can’t Control Me” and “Stop Calling Me” are way too loud, abrasive and hard-rocking for the triple-A format, but “One More Time,” “Make Up Your Mind” and “This Darkest Day” would fit right in. And the fact that Gilpin is able to provide raw, corrosive punk one minute and introspective adult alternative the next speaks well of him. Gilpin is far from one-dimensional, and his diversity is a definite asset on this 2013 release.
Although Gilpin’s own songs dominate Take It Back, he also provides a memorable cover of the Eurythmics’ 1983 smash “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” Thirty years ago, that song went down in history as a definitive example of British new wave and synth-pop. But Gilpin’s remake is by no means a carbon copy of the original. Gilpin gives the Eurythmics gem a makeover that is both punky and mindful of goth-rock; his version rocks harder and is more guitar-driven, yet he savors the Eurythmics’ haunting melody.
Another highlight of this album is “The Crying Sons,” which combines a punk snarl with the influence of 1960s British invasion groups like the Yardbirds and the Zombies. The song’s psychedelic melody easily captures that Gregorian type of sound that one heard on the Yardbirds’ “Heart Full of Soul,” the Zombies’ “She’s Not There” and the Beau Brummels’ “Just a Little” back in the day (San Francisco’s Beau Brummels were an American band with a decidedly British sound).
Take It Back is a consistently strong effort from this unpredictable Philadelphian.
Take It Back
Review by Alex Henderson
4 stars (out of 5)