Sunday 19 April 2020


Being in a band with members of your family can be a little stressful and fractious, just ask Kings of Leon,The Kinks and The Black Crowes, as not only are you dealing with all the usual ego trips and musical differences that come with being in a band you also have to deal with the in-fighting, sibling rivalries and all the other mundane things that families tend to deal with on a day to day basis. It is probably why bands with related members tend to break up and reform and break up again with such regularity.
Michigan's Criminal Rock are a family band made up of  father Brian Cowan (drums/vocals), daughter Emma (bass/keys/vocals) and son Tre (guitar/vocals), whether they last the distance as a band is something for the future to decide but for now the trio are kicking some serious ass with their unique brand of hard rock, punk, metal and alt/rock, something their second release "Panic Attack" testifies to in no uncertain terms.

Things begin well with first song "Give 'em Hell" its recurring guitar motif  and occasional slides into System of A Down type vocal stylings the meat and potato's of a very tasty hard rock dish. Criminal Rock follow up their barnstorming' opener by getting a little funky and quirky with "Funk Mother" a track that sees bassist Emma Cowan stepping up to the mic to deliver a raw jerky vocal backed by some sterling off kilter guitar work, courtesy of her brother Tre and that is underpinned by dad Brian's free flowing percussion. A revving car engine and a shout of "Where are you going with my car boy" introduces "Old Man's Car" a stuttering opus with a southern rock edge that channels a little Raging Slab swagger within its groove and possesses a chorus that's damn hard to ignore. "Would You Believe Me" follows and like its predecessor struts a similar southern fried groove as well as some scorching guitar work while "Big Bang Trippin'" finds all three members taking turns at the microphone with a sort of a three way vocal trade off over a stuttering spasmodic hard rock groove. Criminal Rock do a ninety degree spin for the next two tracks "Scratching The Surface"  and "Cold Steel" the trio leave behind the southern tinted hard rock that informs much of the first half of "Panic Attack" and dive headlong into harsher, visceral waters with the former finding Emma Cowan swapping between clean and demonic vocal tones over a breakneck groove that borders on hardcore and the latter jamming a more alternative groove that follows a similar vocal pattern (Emma again) but throws in a little rap style scatting to further confuse matters. Last track "Beautiful Nightmare" finds Criminal Rock bringing together the harder, harsher elements of their sound with the more straight ahead elements that they explored on the first half of the album resulting in a quite weird but highly enjoyable mish mash of styles that sounds slightly schizophrenic and stitched together but despite this strangely works.

"Panic Attack" is an album that will split opinion, some will love it's  unique musical approach and some will just not get its shifts from conventional rock territory into the realms of the alternate, the harsh and the quirky. Whatever camp you find yourself in, after giving this off kilter collection a listen ,one thing is certain and that is that no way will you ever forget the name Criminal Rock.
Check 'em out …..

© 2020 Frazer Jones

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