With Vixen taking a little breather after reforming a few years back, the timing is perfect for vocalist/guitarist Janet Gardner to release her debut solo album. Given the fact that Gardner has been in the business of music for decades now, it’s a fair question to ask; why now?.. and after hearing some of the tracks; what took so long? With husband and guitarist/producer Justin James at her side, Gardner made the wise decision to release the songs as a solo project, rather than form a new part-time band. Although it is a collaboration between the pair, to all intents and purposes, it is Gardner’s debut solo project. One that took thirty years, that’s all!
‘Janet Gardner’ (the album) features many different sounds from Gardner and James. Kudos to both for stretching out and experimenting, rather than merely rehashing old Vixen albums. I’m sure that fans would have loved ‘Vixen Part II’ or even ‘Rev It Up Part II’, so it’s refreshing to hear the industrial-lite vibe of acts like Sixx AM or Skillet come spewing forth from the speakers. Opening track ‘Rat Hole’ kicks the album off with some neat creepy carnival intro music. This makes way for a mash-up of groove metal riffs and a thumping drum sound. The ‘na-na-na’ chorus I’m not too keen on, but Gardner’s voice does impress greatly. It seems huskier and with more rasp than I recall. The groove continues on ‘Hippycrite’, which has a high commercial sheen to it in places. One piece of advice, crank it up. My first listen was quite low, and resulted in a feeling of “meh”. Later, I urned it up and it was a whole different ball game. The guitars really do stand out and add another dimension at full volume. The first sign of what you might class as vintage Vixen appears on ‘If You Want Me’, but only if you can imagine Vixen playing with a ‘Dr Feelgood’ crunch in the background. ‘Dr Feelgood’ as in the Crüe song, not the classic British band. It has a very, very commercial feel, with massive hooks and a towering vocal performance from Gardner. ‘Your Problem Now’ is classic hard rock with sneering vocals from Gardner, whereas ‘Let It Be Over’ is the polar opposite. Featuring an acapella intro that helps build the song up, it’s a slow burning number that simply sizzles when the guitar solo comes in. ‘Lost’ is more classic hard rock with a bitching, galloping beat and the fuzziest of guitar sounds this side of a stoner band. See what I mean about Gardner mixing it up? ‘The Grind’ is front runner for favourite track on the album, with more of a traditional industrial feel than before. Add a sleazy Velvet Revolver guitar sound in places, and the end result is four minutes to freak out anyone checking in for a rehash of ‘Edge Of A Broken Heart’.
I’m not sure what I expected from this album, but what I got was a pleasant surprise.
Available now on Pavement Entertainment. For more information visit the Janet Gardner Facebook.
Review: Dave Stott