Album: Wonder Days
Our Verdict: 8/10
Release date: 16th February
Find it at: Thunderonline.com
Review by: Graeme Blackwell
“Pull that stick out of your butt and slap yourself round the face with it. Bowes and the boys have delivered on album No.10!”
Listening to Thunder’s 10th studio album, you get an overwhelming sense that the “wonder” of the title is that of a deliriously happy band who have realised that – despite significant trials and tribulations along the way – it is a glorious thing that they are still trucking and able to make the music that turns them on.
The band’s first album in six years, Wonder Days is the record that might never have been. Having played their last gig in London in 2009, Thunder announced that they were to split, but one-off appearances, acoustic shows, tours with Whitesnake and Journey, and then appearances at Download and Wacken sparked a new flame, and in May last year the band announced a new album was on its way.
Now then, at last, the wait is over. And bugger me it was worth it.
Wonder Days is everything you ever loved about Thunder and a little bit more. Despite the absence of guitarist Ben Matthews (who is thankfully now recovering after treatment for tonsil cancer), this is the sound of a band confident in their abilities, firing on all cylinders and relentlessly delivering the goods.
Danny Bowes’ hair-raising voice has lost none of its power over the last 25 years, and Luke Morley’s font of brobdingnagian riffs has clearly not yet run dry. From the opening blast of the title track onwards, Wonder Days serves up earth-shattering slabs of soulful, blues-inflected rock n’ roll that it is hard to imagine any other band performing so brilliantly. You need only check out the galloping rumble of “The Prophet”, the dark slice of “Black Water” or the spine-tingling “Chasing Shadows” for proof.
Thematically, it would be easy to give Wonder Days a cursory listen and chalk it up to a group of maturing musicians indulging in a nostalgic look back at their glory days. But that would be to miss the point entirely and do this vital and energetic album a great disservice.
Listen again and pick out the subtleties and nuances. Yes, this is in part a reflection on the dreams and desires of a band of young men growing in to themselves and all that that entails: summers that last forever; battles with authority figures who demand the shearing of long hair and strict adherence to societal rules; an endless craving for weekends that seem few and far between. But the album is also so much more.
Far from an empty, rear-facing look back, Wonder Days is a boundless celebration of the present moment and a future brimming with potential. There is joy and hope here; a faith in the power of music to unite and deliver. Crucially, it will blow your proverbial socks off too. Indeed, the enveloping warmth of “Resurrection Day” or the soaring “When The Music Played” drive home the sound of a band who have found a renewed joy in the company of friends and the art of playing their music so well.
“Don’t forsake me… I’m only asking for rain” sings Danny Bowes in the refrain of the mandolin-driven, folk-inflected dusty desert stylings of “The Rain.” Well God knows it’s pouring now and Thunder, it’s bloody good to have you back.
Thunder will play three dates in the UK in March:
Mar 12th: First Direct Arena, Leeds
Mar 13th: Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham
Mar 14th: Eventim Apollo, London
Tickets are available now via Gigantic.com
Check out Thunder performing the title track from Wonder Days live to 15,000 fans at Loud Park, Japan below: