Ladies and gents who may be reading this, let me advise you that if you are a fan of hard rock or metal, there is precious little reason to visit the former industrial powerhouse and now excluded candidate for European City of Culture that is Dundee. Indeed, it is a pretty much barren wasteland for that sort of music, the recently developed open air venue of Slessor Gardens instead hosting the likes of Little Mix and Olly Murs, the local theatres hosting tribute acts to sixties pop, or Little Mix (I shit you not, those reality show flash in the pans have touring tribute acts!), and the few times that original metal or rock acts play the city these days they barely make any impression and must end up leaving promoters reeling and out of pocket. And Dundee, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the city I now call home after decades in London when any night off meant a free tube journey to one of the many music venues that made the place tolerable to live in where I was guaranteed to be entertained. However, even in this barren wasteland so often the butt of Frankie Boyle’s jokes, there are small havens of creativity, hard to find yet bright sparks that give hope, and the brightest of these lights is local band Solar Sons, who without any label support, or even a Kickstarter campaign, have just released their rather excellent second album ‘Retrograde Motion’.
A few readers out there may have heard of, or even experienced live Solar Sons after their well attended MTM winner’s slot at Bloodstock 2017, and if you were part of the audience for that well attended set, you may well be aware of their style, and indeed a couples of tracks from their second release. Opener ‘Defence Mechanism’ sets the tone for the album, a combination of tight complex drumming, skilfully delivered bass lines, a host of riffs that are equal parts Prog and Metal, and cleanly sung Sci-Fi inspired lyrics that are light years from the vapid pap that normally pollutes the streets of this city as it spills from the PA systems of assorted pubs, clubs, and venues. Imagine if you will Rush at their heaviest, but without the nails down a chalkboard falsetto of Geddy Lee (sorry folks, love the music of those Canadian titans, but the vocals make me wince), and you’ll be right in the middle of the territory occupied by Solar Sons. This same sentiment threads through the diverse sounds of ‘Into The Towers’, the song, like the others of the album, eschewing the tired old clique of verse/chorus/verse, instead deciding to tell a tale that could have come from the oh so prolific pen of Michael Moorcock; indeed, I’ve little doubt that the three members of Solar Sons must read his works as well as listen to his occasional collaborators Hawkwind.
Throughout the album, the lyrics of each track read more like a short story than a song, whether it is wrapped in a light, almost seventies California-rock like blanket of ‘The Rift’, or the harder, near NWOBHM delivery of ‘En El Nombre De La Madre’, a number whose galloping riff and bass line surely owes at least a nod to the early interplay of Messrs Harris, Smith and Murray. Not all is multi-layered Prog interplay, as is shown by the gentle idyll of mid album offering ‘Clouds’, a number that deserves to have lighters raised in tribute in massive auditoriums, rather than having pints raised in the cramped pubs that are the normal location to find Solar Sons, albeit they are starting to get more well deserved recognition and larger gigs. For those who feel the necessity to wreck their necks, the band provide that with the hard played riffs of ‘Colossus’, albeit they interject the assault with some trippy space rock interludes. Closing the album is the suitably epic title track ‘Retrograde Motion’, where the band mix together the sensibilities of Yes, the writings of Larry Niven, and their own excellent musicianship into one nine minute distillation of their considerable talents.
I have little doubt that if Rory, Danny, and Peter of the band had been born some thirty years ago they would have had far more of the success that they deserve, and their name would have been uttered in even more hushed tones by Whispering Bob Harris on an Old Grey Whistle Test special dedicated to their album release. As it is, instead they prove what what can be achieved with ability and dedication against the backdrop of an indifferent music industry and a city where this nearly fifty year old metal fan is sneered at as a “Goff” by ripped-jean clad youngsters listening to generic X-factor tripe from the tinny speakers of their smart phones. There is a whole pile of accomplishment in ‘Retrograde Motion’, and a whole ton more of potential, so I can only implore any reader who manages to plough through my ramblings to visit the band’s pages, and support an act that pretty much typifies the DIY attitude of the modern rock and metal underground.