Honest and redolent of simpler times, Johnny Touch play the grittier, rock-tinged heavy metal – British (Saxon), French (ADX, Sortilege), and American (Warlord, Fifth Angel) – of the first half of the eighties. Inner City Wolves is a studied replica of a bygone era, but I can’t bring myself to equate its unoriginality with insincerity. A personal criteria for judging and enjoying metal has always been to initially connect with the spirit in the music, if indeed there’s any to be found in the first place. I suppose everybody has their own definition of “spirit”, but whatever that may be, once captured, the listener can then proceed to experience the music on its own terms. Not every metal album needs to be held up to the most exacting standards of innovation, provided it carries enough of this spirit, and plays with reasonable confidence around the stylistic context in which it operates.
This attitude of mature but sincere bracketing is key, I find, in keeping cynicism at just enough distance, and retaining the sense of innocent wonder at simple things done well that invariably gets lost with time. Inner City Wolves does the simple things very well indeed; a solidly song-oriented affair more concerned with amiably fluid chord progressions, elegant embellishments, and vocal melodies than outright attrition, this album is a veritable showcase of the techniques that made this genre. It also contains the sophistication of restraint and common sense, two attributes not given their rightful due in much of modern metal.
I look back at the heavy metal reviews and posts on this blog, and the overwhelming sense I derive from them is one of a flushed apologism. Why this siege mentality? Have we grown so far apart from the origins of this music that we need to fall over ourselves to justify our love of the unassuming? Or, more pointedly, is it because of a latent, sublimated dishonesty that confuses nostalgia and innocence with quality?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. Maybe it’s a little of both but perhaps this ignorance is another key to appreciating albums like these. There is no need for an Inner City Wolves in the present day from a musical point of view, but there is a gladly offered niche for albums of its ilk all the same.