Album Review: Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders - Playmates (2014 LP)

In the three years between the release of Love Is Gone and Hurtsville Jack Ladder’s music underwent a substantial change in direction. Love Is Gone was written using simple lines, the idea was that the songs could be taken and openly interpreted by whoever was playing with Ladder at the time. When Kirin J Callinan joined the band he and Ladder went about completely deconstructing the songs and pieced them back together, with Ladder’s baritone the only landmark to remind of where we had been.

With another three year gap between Hurtsville and Playmates it wouldn’t have been a far stretch to anticipate another tectonic shift in direction. Particularly when The Dreamlanders has been beefed up with the addition of crooner Donny Benet and Laurence Pike (PVT) alongside the return of Kirin J Callinan. Instead under the watchful production of Kim Moyes, Playmates is a refinement and sharpening of the vistas we treated to on Hurtsville.

The music is still fed through the framework of 80’s rock, but is decisively modern and of the time. Ladder is paced at the forefront, his baritone as intoxicating as ever and his dry gallows humour traced across his incisive lyrics. His crack team execute this vision masterfully. There isn’t a scarce trace of ego in these songs. Every buzzsaw guitar solo, drop of feedback, keyboard line and production trip serving the atmosphere the song demands. Whether it’s the morose loss of "Come On Back This Way", the sinister moping horror trickling through "Neon Blue", the nod to flat out metal aggression of "Reputation Amputation" or the old world romanticism at the heart of "To Keep and Be Kept".

Playmates is the strongest record Jack Ladder has written yet. It’s a record that looks deep into human nature and desires and throws them back at you, with a neat glass of whiskey and a knowing nod. Its achieved using tools of a traditional rock band, with the end product both of our time and timeless.

Review Score: 9.0 out of 10

Playmates is out now.