As a drummer in a rock band, I gravitate to albums with that natural, primal sense of rhythm and groove. Toronto’s Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs’ self-titled record has that X factor I’m looking for. Fusing power pop with catchy choruses, fantastic drum grooves and slick guitar solos, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs is the record you want blaring out of your car’s stereo while driving down your highway of choice.
Everything kicks off right from the opening chug of “Talk 2 Her”. With a powerful chorus that reignites the chords to the Rolling Stones’ seminal “Start Me Up”, “Talk 2 Her” swaggers as Coffey sings of working up the courage to ask that cute girl out. Shades of Thin Lizzy and even Van Morrison (listen to “Tough” and tell me you don’t hear the resemblance!) make their way into the mix. Dueling guitars really give the “bar band” vibe some edge, and then the keyboards come in, adding a more ambient layer to the band’s sound.
The nostalgia factor is pretty big here. Between “Talk 2 Her” and the punk vibes of “Voicemail” and “Judy” (which references pop/rock singer and songwriter Dwight Twilley), it’s clear Coffey & The Iron Lungs are heavily influenced by the ‘70s and ‘80s; themes such as young love, isolation and escaping the bores of suburban life are delivered with a self-awareness that makes them worth returning to.
Coffey and Co. go all-out on the record’s second half with a sweeping, three-track, nine-minute powerhouse. “I: Ragnarok” is my favourite of the entire album (and one of my Top 10 songs of 2017 so far). It is incredibly heartfelt, emotional and made to be heard live, demanding you sing along with that chorus at the top of your lungs. (It should’ve been playing in the Thor: Ragnarok teaser, hands down). “II: Teenage Release” expands on the album’s themes of rebellion and meaningful relationships. To cap it off, there’s a sweet combo of what sounds like the main riff to “Baba O’Riley” mixed with the short guitar sweeps of “Don’t Stop Believing” in “III: PHD”. Amazing.
Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs take inspiration from several places: the raw, bold guitar energy of acts like The Who and Journey, singalong choruses from The Clash, Bruce Springsteen and the aforementioned Stones, plus some sharp, clever songwriting for good measure. The end result makes for, in Coffey’s words, “a big shiny rock record” and one of 2017’s best.