So what do we really know about rock ‘n’ roll? That it’s got abackbeat, and you can lose it any old time you use it. That doing it all nightwill often lead to partying every day or, at the very least, some hootchie-coo. That it is most certainly not noise pollution (and thus, one presumes,environmentally friendly). That there is at least one high school named afterit. That it was given to you by God. That you can’t stop it. That it neverforgets. And that, despite rumours of its demise, it will never die.
Danko Jones knows all of these things, but more than justcelebrate the mythology of rock ‘n’ roll, he stands as a model of all thehard work required to honour its legacy—all the overnight drives,sleepless nights, long-distance relationshipping, and pints of spilt bloodand sweat (but no tears—there’s no crying in rock ‘n’ roll). It’s the onlylife he’s known for the past 18 years, the gory details of which are onfull display in their documentary DVD, Bring on the Mountain, and the tell-allbook Too Much Trouble: A Very Oral History of Danko Jones. Given everythinghe’s been through, it’s no surprise to find that rock ‘n’ roll has left DankoJones a little black and blue. But he’s always itching for the next hit—likethe sweet little heartbreakers that populate his songs, rock ‘n’ roll is anaddiction he don’t wanna quit.
Over the course of six albums, Danko Jones has forged a singular brandof rock ‘n’ roll that draws equally from the various roots of rock — withoutever being fully defined by any of those sources. But while built from the samerudiments, each Danko Jones record has possessed a distinct sonic identity andattitude. I’m Alive and I’m On Fire was pure blues-punk fury. Born a Lionbrought the boogie and sledgehammer soul. We Sweat Blood was more anxious andaggro. Sleep Is the Enemy wielded the sharpest hooks. Never Too Loud was asslick as Below the Belt was stripped-down and last but not least, Rock and RollIs Black and Blue is, hands down, the most emotional and, as a result, the mostepic Danko Jones album to date.
Now, don’t be scared off by those E-words—there’s not a children’schoir, symphony orchestra or piano ballad to be found within a 500-mile radiusof this album. But what you hear on Rock and Roll Is Black and Blue is theDanko Jones ideal blown up to skyscraping proportions, resulting in 12 tracksthat are bolder, brasher, and brawnier than anything they’ve attempted before.
So what exactly has changed since 2010’s comparatively scrappy Belowthe Belt, an album that cracked the U.S. Top 40 Active Rock Radio charts, andspawned a video trilogy that marked the first time Elijah Wood and RalphMacchio have shared screen time with Lemmy Kilmister and Mike Watt? The answeris as simple as inspiration. Now, Danko Jones has never been lacking forconfidence, and on Rock and Roll Is Black And Blue the band sounds morefearless than ever, whether taking it low and slow with the majesticZeppelin-worthy groove of “You Wear Me Down,” or aiming sky-high on thecloud-parting chorus of “Just a Beautiful Day” and the soaring centrepiecetrack “Always Away.” The latter is another addition to the great Danko Jonescanon of road songs—but where previous entries like “Code of the Road” and“Sleep Is the Enemy” were testaments to the band’s tireless work ethic, “AlwaysAway” offers a different perspective: It’s an anthemic, open-hearted address tothat special someone who’s holding down the fort back home. And it is perhapsthe most sincere, heartfelt song Danko has ever sung—but fear not, even at hismost sentimental, Danko still comes armed with a bitchin’ “Thunderstruck”-sizedriff.
In other developments, there are also, for the first time on a DankoJones record, songs that reference geo-politics (“I Don’t Care”) and religion(“I Believed in God”—a grand, gospelized finale cut from the same cloth as theearly signature track “Love Is Unkind”), though they essentially serve toreiterate that Danko Jones doesn’t give a shit about either of those topics.Because, ultimately, Rock and Roll Is Black and Blue is focused on who’sinflicting the bruises: that “Conceited” “Type of Girl” with the kind of “Legs”that force you to “Get Up” and feel “Terrified” until you scream “Don’t DoThis!”. And that’s just how this self-professed “Masochist” likes it.