Having stuck to their guns through a half-decade of listless pop music fads (female folkies, emo-art-rock, electronica), the time may finally be right for Danko Jones. After several years of increasingly well-received European and Canadian tours – including a recent gig opening for the Rolling Stones – Born a Lion may be just the ticket the band needs to propel them to the next level. As their first major label release, it’s also their first true album: their only previous releases were a short EP and an obscure disc of recordings compiled from their early live sets.
Danko Jones is as much a showman as he is a singer. He and the rest of his band (also known collectively as Danko Jones) exude more rock-star persona during a single live show than most early-90s grunge bands were able to muster during their entire careers. On stage, Danko Jones is clean shaven, sharply dressed, and struts with his head held high and his guitar slung low in a pose that utterly defines arrogance. A riveting performer, he takes instant command of the audience with a glare that seems to pierce into the soul of each and every person in the room. While his attitude may be too much for some to stomach, his stage persona is clearly an over-the-top parody of every rock star who’s ever taken himself too seriously. And has there ever been a rock star who hasn’t?
Born a Lion is a perfect showcase for the band’s energy and comes as close as is humanly possible to capturing the electricity of their live performances. Danko Jones’s music strips away decades of superfluous influences to bring rock music back to the essentials: guitar, drums, bass, and songs about hot chicks. While long-time fans may notice that some of the rougher edges have been softened, the music is still fast and furious. Each tune contains a carefully crafted hook, and most tracks are undeniably catchy.
This is the sound of a band hitting their stride and executing with tight confidence. If you can see Danko Jones perform live, do so. If that’s not possible, however, Born a Lion will make an excellent substitute.