By Metal Dave
I was literally introduced to Danko Jones on a sidewalk outside Emo’s in Austin, Texas, circa the early 2000s.
The handshake came courtesy of Texas metal hero Jason McMaster (Watchtower, Dangerous Toys, Broken Teeth, etc.) who had been praising the Canadian rocker as the “real deal” thanks to such libido-driven influences as KISS, Thin Lizzy and Motorhead.
Later that night, Danko and his self-named band squinted through sweat-stung eyes while delivering a set of atomic-bomb Camaro rock that included stage-bantered mentions of Cliff Burton and Paul Baloff. Whoa! This guy is legit!
Immediately converted to the ranks o’ Danko, I began collecting the albums, going to the gigs and watching from afar as America’s loss earned coveted overseas tours opening for legendary bad-asses like Guns N’ Roses, Motorhead and Michael Monroe. Yeah, slouches need not apply.
Which brings us to 2019 and a brand new album titled, “A Rock Supreme.” As proven on such earlier releases as “We Sweat Blood,” “Sleep is the Enemy,” “Never Too Loud” and “Below the Belt,” (among others dating back to 2002), Danko Jones is a master of harnessing the pulsing, primal core of rock-n-roll’s inherent strut. It’s sexy. It’s tough. And it’s damn well ready to party! In other words, Danko music demands a reaction and nothing short of death is a valid excuse.
Coming from most anyone else, the celebratory declaration of opening track, “I’m in a Band,” would sound forced and corny (or at least juvenile and painfully obvious). Coming from Danko, however, the rabid conviction of the vocal attack (coupled with the tribal clank-clank of a stalking cowbell) sounds like the Boogie Man is hot on your heels and daring you to doubt him. Hot damn! He’s in a band! And he means it, man!
As always, the trio’s pounding simplicity is used to “supreme” effect as evidenced on two of the album’s best tracks — “Lipstick City” and “That Girl.” Anyone who doubts the weight of muted spaces between power chords hasn’t paid attention to AC/DC or Thin Lizzy (and, for that, there is no forgiveness).
The other standout tracks — “Fists Up High,” “You Can’t Keep Us Down” and “Burn in Hell” — subscribe to another Danko signature; namely, the defiant, tough-guy anthem that curls the lip and tightens the knuckles.
The slinky slither of “Dance, Dance, Dance” is Danko’s invitation to, well, the dance floor (or center-stage pole depending on the venue). It’s a hip-banger that wouldn’t be out of place following Motley Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” or Buckcherry’s “Crazy Bitch.” Admit it! We’ve all raised a toast to this kind of debauchery.
“You’ve Got Today” is a decent, uplifting track, but ultimately is most memorable for sounding like Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher.” Not bad, but you know you’ve heard it before.
On the downside, Danko can fall victim to overplaying the horn-dog lyrics (“I Love Love”) and forced rhymes (“Party”). Musically, “Party” is one of the best songs on the album, but it’s hard to get past Danko’s request to take off “every clothing item?” Item? Who says that?
On the upside, Danko’s motor-mouth vocal delivery is pretty impressive. How does he keep track of all that supersonic wordplay? It’s also worth noting that a cowbell hasn’t been used to such propulsive effect since Peter Criss and Tommy Lee were both scraping for rent.
So, hey, “A Rock Supreme” falls a bit short of its ambitious title, but even the Ramones and AC/DC have second-tier albums. This one is definitely worth owning if you’re already a fan and, to be fair, it makes a better-than-decent introduction to a band that, quite honestly, needs to be seen on stage and in-your-face where Danko Jones, does indeed, rock supreme!
For Danko Jones merch and more info, including his in-the-know, rock-nerd podcast, go here. (And, yes, as a rock nerd myself, I mean that in the most complimentary way!)