Some guys never change. Thank christ.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “When he’s not alphabeticzing his record collection, cleaning blood off his guitars, or fending off anti-masker dipshits on Twitter, Danko Jones fronts the rock band Danko Jones. It’s a job that he’s held down for 25 years now. That’s right: A quarter of a century.
When Danko Jones started out in 1996, there were only, like, four websites to look at; you could still score a used copy of Live and Dangerous on vinyl for under $10; and if you wanted to watch porn, you had to sheepishly pay a visit to the back section of your local videostore and hope nobody else heard you pass through the creaky saloon-door barrier. Coincidentally, 1996 was also the year when the music press started to get consumed by the question of “Is rock dead?”, as kids traded in their wool toques for backward baseball caps and their flannels for raver pants. Danko Jones, with their blues-battered, garage-greased mojo, seemed to answer the question with a resounding “fuck no.” And over the next two and a half decades — with nine albums, countless international tours, and shared bills with legends like Motörhead, Guns N’ Roses and The Rolling Stones under their sweat-rusted belts — Danko Jones have made the case again and again that there’s still plenty of life in rock ’n’ roll’s rotting corpse.
But here’s the thing: Danko has never made it his life’s mission to save rock ’n’ roll. He’d actually prefer you forget about it and leave it for dead — that way, he can do whatever the fuck that he wants without having to please the poseurs, trendspotters, and (lord help us) Instagram influencers. He can sing about the things he wants to sing about — namely, making love on a Saturday night and raising hell every other day of the week — without worrying about whether he’s contributing to the pop-cultural conversation, staying relevant in the eyes of the music media, or broadening his demographic reach. While the world has changed dramatically over the past 25 years, Danko Jones, bless him, most definitely has not — and the proof is right here in his 10th album of no-bullshit rockers and white-hot ragers, Power Trio.
Power Trio — it’s such a simple, self-evident title, but one loaded with significance, as it speaks to the special triangular alchemy Danko shares with his trusty bass-slinging accomplice JC and drummer Rich Knox, while also staking out the band’s place on a storied lineage of three-piece titans that includes the Jimi Hendrix Experience, ZZ Top, Rush, Motörhead, Venom, Dinosaur Jr., and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, to name a few. When you choose to start a power trio, you’re not simply forming a band, you’re entering a blood pact — a tacit acknowledgement that all three members need to carry their equal share of the weight lest the whole enterprise collapse. There’s nowhere to hide in a power trio — no second guitarist to cover your mistakes, no keyboard player to smooth things over, no horn section to distract the crowd. If you fuck up, the whole band fucks up. Everybody needs to be on their A-game at all times, and on Power Trio, Danko Jones are in peak physical condition, delivering each engine-revving riff, soul-shaking stomp, and shout-it-loud hook with a sniper’s precision.
Though it features no songs about viruses, hand sanitizer, or Dr. Fauci, Power Trio is nonetheless a product of the current global pandemic, and the corrosive public discourse it’s wrought. But more than simply wage war on the disinformation age via the seething anthem Ship of Lies (arguably the first topical song in the entire Danko Jones canon), the whole album positively judders with the restless, bottled-up energy of a band that’s been cooped up for the past year after spending most of its lifetime out on the road. When Danko sings, “I wanna leave / I want out!” on the rampaging opener I Want Out, you can practically picture him bouncing off the walls, rattling the cage doors, and bashing his head until it bleeds. Even the songs that focus on Danko’s most reliable source of happiness — women — are fuelled by a more heightened sense of mania: on the KISS-goes-Motown strutter Good Lookin’, he’s reduced to a blathering, tongue-tied mess by the girl of his dreams; the desperate Dangerous Kiss finds him on his knees pleading for another taste of his lover’s lips; and the cowbell-clanking, brass-knuckle boogie of Blue Jean Denim Jumpsuit approaches its casualwear queen with a fear and awe normally reserved for religious deities.
But what’s always made Danko Jones so much more than just a band of black-clad brutes is that their horndog confessions aren’t about mere sexual conquests, but the search for true, everlasting love. “While everybody’s outside fighting” amid the power-chord roar of Saturday, Danko just wants to spend the evening curled up on the couch with his missus, whereas the pop-punked, Thin Lizzy-ed prowler Get to You and the garage-punk blitz Flaunt It actually contain the sort of expressions of emotional support that only exist in the most committed relationships. Heck, with their romantic ride-or-die sentiments, the grunge crunch of Let’s Rock Together and AC/DC-meets-Pixies power-pop punch of Raise Some Hell could practically work as wedding songs, assuming you skipped the traditional first dance in favour of starting a mosh pit.
Ironically, the last song on Power Trio is called Start the Show, which is essentially Danko Jones’ answer to Cheap Trick’s signature salutation Hello There — i.e., a song tailormade to be the first song played at Danko Jones shows forevermore because it’s about being the first song played at a Danko Jones show. “Get me onstage because I’m ready to play, let’s start the show,” Danko declares, and like every great Danko Jones song about his chosen vocation — Play the Blues, Code of the Road, I Gotta Rock, I’m in a Band —it’s a reaffirmation of everything he was put on this earth to do. But in the wake of this pandemic-plagued year, the song also makes for a surprisingly poignant album closer, because it’s a reminder of all the shows that Danko didn’t get to play this past year, and a reminder of how much we’ve all missed that goosebump-inducing feeling of being in a packed club when the house lights go down, the music playing over the PA cuts out, and your favourite power trio emerges from the darkness to kick into their opening tune. And yet despite this bittersweet subtext, Start the Show is brimming with the promise that we will experience that feeling once again — and, after the black cloud of COVID clears, Danko Jones will be there ready to give it to you (provided your vaccination records are all up to date).”