WHEN UFO touch down at the Spring & Airbrake on Friday night, it will be on the back of what just could be their finest album outing in years. The Visitor hit the shelves last week, with classic rock magazines touting its white-man's blues credentials. Occasional slide guitar and a honky tonk vibe it is an easy comparison. Opening tracks Saving Me and On The Waterfront lay down a slick blues sound.
But this is an album with more depth than a little slide guitar.
Last outing, Monkey Puzzle, was a solid outing, but one in which the band were looking over their collective shoulder at a 40-year back-catalogue. There was a whiff that if they stuck to the same formula their next CD should come with free pipe and slippers.
With The Visitor they have shrugged off any such delusions with ease and shifted just far enough away from the comfort zone the band could have become stuck in. Vinnie Moore provides the soulful licks without ever letting go of the fact that UFO are one of the definitive British hard rock acts. For every blues tinged solo there is a hard edged riff. Stop Breaking Down, Hell Driver and Stranger in Town tap into the classic sound, but still manage to sound fresh.
UFO have always managed to mix the pipes of Phil Mogg with a mix balanced between riffage and subtlelty. For all the headbanging fun of a Doctor Doctor there has always been the balance of the likes of Looking After NO. 1 (Obsession album). Here that balance is on Forsaken - a tale of loss and heartache that can only be told through bitter personal experience. This isn't emo, this is real emotion.
This is a band that could be collectively seen as a bunch of old codgers. But even grumpy old men can stretch arthritic limbs and touch a vibe that the Johnny-Come-Latelys would struggle with.
Listen to the aforementioned track On The Waterfront. For any of us who have sat in the fading summer sunlight on the beach at Ballyholme, the promenade at Carrick, of the shores of Loughs Neagh or Erne, this is a track to raise that can of beer or bottle of cider in sweet memory.
Yes, two listens to The Visitor will make you want to toast these legends of hard rock.
Importantly, sounds from The Visitor sit perfectly comfortably with the rest of the UFO back catalogue. They will be the balance, the foil and the counterpoint to make old and new songs alike sound fresh.
UFO play the Spring & Airbrake on Friday 12th June. Tickets are still available at Katy Daly's and at the door, priced £20.
The Visitor is out now in SPV/Steamhammer.