Giving The Game Away (1999)
And so we move on to the fifth studio album from everyone’s – well, mine – favourite London rockers. Giving The Game Away was to be the last record before the first career break. I’ll be blatantly honest too – it’s also the one I was looking forward to reviewing the least as well. For whatever reason – maybe the split had something to do with it – I didn’t really connect with this record. Will time have mellowed my opinion of it? Only one way to find out…
The record opens with the single Just Another Suicide (You Wanna Know) and for some reason I seem to recall some kind of controversy surrounding this. Not much, but there was definitely something, and for the life of me, I don’t know what. In any case, this is a typical Thunder rockin’ single – the guitar riffs and solos are spot on, Danny’s vocals effortlessly assured and new boy Chris Childs bass rolls along very merrily. This often gets overlooked, and it’s not easy to pin down why. So far so good!
Following on we have All I Ever Wanted, a slower number, and I’m sure I detect a touch of steel guitar in there too. This to me has echoes and touches of a Beatles song – maybe it’s the production, which is very slick – but I’m just reminded slightly of Free As A Bird. There’s nothing bad about this track, but on the other hand, there’s nothing outstanding about it either, to be honest. Not one of my favourites, I must admit.
Time for the title track, and Giving The Game Away seems to me to continue the Beatles vibe. I must admit I’m just not digging this track, and it really doesn’t do a lot for me. Yes, it’s a departure for the boys – and they do sound like a band growing and maturing – but I’m afraid it does nothing for me, especially the distorted vocal effect in places.
You’ll Still Need A Friend returns the guys to more familiar ballad territory. This was one of my fave tracks on the record at the time and still is. A very simply constructed song, but performed beautifully. Danny excels on this kind of song, where he has to put his own stamp onto the lyrics. His voice is one of the most soulful rock voices ever to be committed to record, and this song is a great vehicle for that. Great track.
Rolling The Dice, however, is my absolute favourite track on this record. From a mellow, laid back opening, it kicks into high gear, and with Danny growling the lyrics over a swaggering Faces-like backing, this track just oozes class. This was always the track that I returned to from this record when I dipped in and out of my Thunder collection on the old iPod.
Following on from that we have Numb – the type of song that Thunder have done for years as good as anyone in the business. With a piano opening, and a touch of Benny’s organ – oo-er missus! – Luke and Danny weave a tale of woe around the superb chorus, the song sticking in your memory like an old friend, it’s just an superbly crafted slice of rock music. Classic, classic Thunder.
And here we go – I knew it was coming soon… Play That Funky Music. I love the song, I love the guys’ take on it – but for me, it’s just the sound of a band on auto-pilot. I’d much rather have had another original, or a different song covered on the album. This just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the record. And yes, while there’s nothing inherently wrong with the track, I just can’t get ‘into’ it the way I would like to.
That is something that can‘t be said for ‘Til It Shines – another slower paced number. You wouldn’t want to be an acoustic guitar in the recording sessions for this record, you’d have taken a real hammering! I’m seeing a pattern in the record, in that the slower numbers are grabbing me more than the faster ones (Rolling The Dice excepted) and this carries that trend on. There’s a real dark edge to this track, which I do like every now and then. Bonus points for the excellent harmonies from Danny & Luke on vocals, too!
It’s time to rock out once again – and Time To Get Tough. See what I did there? No? Oh well, please yourself… back to the song now and I’m digging the weird vibe on this one, and the chorus is built on a huge riff, but for whatever reason, I just don’t feel into this track either. This is the problem I had at the time when I was listening to this record – it just didn’t have the same feel as the previous records.
Yes, people and bands need to evolve and change, but this didn’t feel like a change for the better at the time. The split was vindication of that feeling to me, as rough as that announcement was on me back then – and trust me, it’s worse now!
Penultimate track on the record is next and It’s Another Day is that track. Sharp vocals as usual from the always energetic Mr. Bowes – but I gotta say, this is just a fairly middle of the road track by Thunder’s awesomely high standards. Only the chorus makes any impression on me, and I can barely remember the lyrics – unusual for me with Thunder songs. It’s not a filler, it’s just… there.
Finishing off the record comes It Could Be Tonight, possibly inspired by the National Lottery? Probably not, but you never know. This is another track like the previous one, that just seems to amble along quite merrily, without ever offering anything mind blowing. The usual high standards from everyone playing and singing, but it’s just not memorable for me.
Overall, I think I’ll pretty much stand by my first impressions of the record. There are undoubtedly a couple of stand out, excellent tracks on the album – but as a whole album, it just didn’t thrill me the way I feel Thunder records do. This remains my least listened to of all Thunder’s albums; while I know a lot of people really loved this album – it just wasn’t for me. With the knowledge that this was to be the last studio record before the split, it does feel like a band winding down – and after The Thrill Of It All, that’s somewhat of a disappointment for me. Recommended for enthusiasts, but sadly, by no means an essential purchase. And I feel dirty typing that!