After dabbling with a rather short solo career, rock vocalist and guitarist Justin Hawkins resurfaces in a new band, Hot Leg (and not a moment too soon either, with his ex-bandmates more than ably progressing without him in Stone Gods). In The Darkness, Hawkins was primarily known for his infamous shrieking falsetto, taking a note or two from Freddie Mercury, the band itself eliciting either responses of amusement and enjoyment or ridicule and disgust. Their unashamedly dated brand of rock displayed great musicianship and wore its influences on its sleeve but also retained a tongue-in-cheek attitude. A ridiculous flamboyancy engulfed the entire affair and Hot Leg does very little to derive from this formula.
Perhaps one of the main things that distinguish Hot Leg from Hawkins’ previous band is the era of rock influences that the band pay tribute to. Whereas The Darkness drew a lot of inspiration from 70’s rock (at least on their debut – sophomore album, One Way Ticket became a bit more of a Queen tribute album, thanks to its bombastic multilayered vocals), Hot Leg seem to have far more of an 80’s glam vibe. Of course, there are some classic style rockers, but tracks like ‘Cocktails’ tend to remind the listener of 1984-era Van Halen with bouncy synthesisers being no stranger. The lyrics certainly reinforce this cock-rock idea, ranging from love and lust gone wrong (of course laced with the expected innuendo) to judgemental aggression – as was standard fair with any brand of hair-metal of the late 80’s / early 90’s. One song that seems to break out of this trend however is the track ‘Trojan Guitar’, which is more Led Zeppelin than Mötley Crüe due to its narrative nature and occasional folk guitar, making it an odd, but welcome inclusion. As to be expected, Red Light Fever is laden with vocal hooks galore and guitar solo trade-offs, showing that both guitarists, Hawkins and Pete Rinaldi, are equally well versed in widdling away on the six-string. Indeed, the entire band consists of tight performers, but all seem to take a bit of a backseat to Hawkins. This is partially as these songs are nearly exclusively his creation, but also due to his stellar performance - undeniably, one of the best aspects of the album his voice. Hawkins has an incredible set of pipes, especially when it comes to falsetto wails (just listen to him out-shriek guest singer Beverlei Brown, on ‘Ashamed’). It also doesn’t hurt that he has also developed some variance in his voice, occasionally switching to a low and gritty bark - presumably so any glass located near the speakers isn’t completely shattered.
What this album does right is meld together the different aspects of what the band clearly adores – classic rock. Whether it’s the somewhat bloozy beginning of ‘Prima Donna’ or the chicken-picked riffage of single ‘I’ve Met Jesus’, there’s definitely enough variance within the album to keep it from becoming stale. Clocking in at around 35 minutes, the ten cuts are short and sharp and tend to refrain from too much self-indulgent repetition, which is one of the key problems of many of Hot Leg’s predecessors. Perhaps the most important thing about this album however is that it is fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and yet is delivered with conviction and fantastic ability. Like the best of the classic rock bands, Hot Leg are clearly enjoying themselves and making sure their audience is aware of the fact. Rather than whine incessantly about their never-ending pain, as do many modern “rock” bands, Hot Leg want their listener to remember when rock was more about having fun (albeit, slightly misguided fun). Whilst the album is hardly groundbreaking (I don’t think it could actually be walking on more beaten paths), it is an enjoyable listen for fans of slightly-glam classic rock (and of The Darkness) and is unapologetically ridiculous. Red Light Fever is a strong debut and hopefully only a sign of things to come.