Mott the Dog: Thunder – Dopamine – 5 Stars

Danny Bowes, one of rock’s greatest cheerleaders, out front. (Photo by Harpic, Mistress of the Lens)

Fifty years or more since Thunder’s main songwriter and guitarist, Luke Morley, and singer Danny Bowes met, here they are still at the top of their chosen pile. True they have never really conquered America, but the rest of the world sit happily in Thunder’s pocket.

Before Thunder, there was a bit of a false start when they had a band called Terraplane who did break some ground. But it was the mighty Thunder that cracked it. There have been the odd band retirement and splits, but for the sake of harmony, lets gloss over that.

This is their 14th studio album since their debut in 1990, ‘Back Street Symphony,’ and their first double album. Dopamine has 16 solid classic rock songs written by Luke Morley, some out and out belters, whilst some show a little more restraint. Even finding room for some saxophone and accordion.

The songs run nicely into each other just like any good album. The set list runs like a live show. In fact, it’s not often that you can say about a new album from a band that they could actually get up on stage and play this album from start to finish in its running order, then play a few older classics as encores, and their fans would leave more than satisfied.

Thunder’s songwriter and lead guitarist Luke Morley is obviously happy in his work. (Photo by Harpic, Mistress of the Lens)

Their music is certainly Classic Rock, but it’s too easy to just shuffle them into any pigeonhole. The music has so much light and shade you cannot help but be taken along on its waves.

Danny Bowes is a consummate front man and still graces the songs with sublime rock vocals that are very unique, emotional and powerful. It is true that he is one of the things that is instantly recognizable about Thunder, but why try to change one of your major strengths in any way? Danny Bowes is as happy in the quieter moments as he is when the band cuts loose.

The great advantage for a guitar player on a double album is that it leaves Luke Morley plenty of room to wig out on the guitar, which he does to great effect on a regular basis, showing off that he is easily up there with his current peers.

That is not to say Thunder are a two-man band – far from it. The present lineup has been together since 1996, with only bass player Chris Childs being the new boy (not an original member), and a hefty bass he plays, too, putting the thunder in the band.

The twin guitar attack of Luke Morley and Ben Matthews exemplifies their passion after years of brotherhood. (Photo by Harpic, Mistress of the Lens)

Ben Matthews is Thunder’s utility man, playing guitar with Luke Morley, filling in on keyboards when required, adding backing vocals, as well as chunky rhythm guitar riffs, most notably with the guitar riffs from the crotch on ‘One Day We’ll Be Free Again.’

Behind them on the drum riser is Harry James who is probably Britain’s best drummer at the moment. Not only is Harry a wonderful skinsman, but he is also one of the funniest people. Harry is always diving out from behind his kit to come and have a chat with his fans down the front or tell a story about what happened to him last night.

Thunder are not only a great rock band, they are also a supreme gang.

This album may well go down as the pinnacle of Thunder’s career, but then we don’t know what they have got up their collective sleeves for us next.

But of course, it’s live where Thunder really happen, and this album was made for the stage.

Luke Morley on guitar, Danny Bowes on throat for Thunder. (Photo by Harpic, Mistress of the Lens)

On opener ‘The Western Sky’ you can almost feel them getting together to belt the riff out, as Danny Bowes sings the opening verse before leading band and audience into the verse.

The crotch rock of ‘One Day We’ll Be Free Again’ follows. The first sign of acoustic guitar strums along on ‘Even If It Takes a Lifetime,’ backed by some enchantress singing backing vocals and some nice piano. But we are soon back rocking again with one of the heaviest songs on the album, ‘Black,’ with Chris Child’s bass taking the lead, unraveling a perfect vehicle for Danny Bowes voice and will be mega in the stadiums. ‘The Dead City’ is an outrageous rocker led by the guitars, as Danny Bowes hangs tough on vocals. As the song gains speed, Luke Morley lets fly on his Axe.

‘Last Orders’ is a good pub ditty reminiscent of Ronnie Lane, guaranteed to get those feet a-tappin. ‘All The Way’ is a good stomping rocker. ‘Dancing in the Sunshine’ was the leadoff single from the album and nicely sums up all that is great about Thunder, the band. ‘Big Pink Super Moon’ adds stomp to your wallet with tasteful guitar and organ.

Luke Morley spins off into a Thunder storm whilst playing with his band. (Photo by Harpic, Mistress of the Lens)

‘Across the Nation’ is going to be huge on the live stage; the lyrics plead for the band to be allowed back in front of their fans to play again after the pandemic. The guitars chime together in perfect rockin’ unison until Luke Morley roars out again. ‘Just a Grifter’ sounds like the title implies, time for an intake of breath. ‘I Don’t Believe a Word’ will ring true with many around the world. ‘Disconnected’ is anything but, a good solid Thunder rocker. ‘Is Anybody Out There’ is Thunder’s anguished ballad featuring the piano of Ben Matthews and the throat of Danny Bowes. ‘No Smoke Without Fire’ rounds out the album nicely with each member of the band shining, leaving you very satisfied.

A truly wonderful Thunder album.

Written by Mott The Dog in a Thunderstorm on Pattaya’s Darkside.
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(Cover artwork)