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Last year, Sweden’s Diamond Dogs released the highly crafted double LP magnum opus Slap Bang Blue Rendezvous as a way of signaling their unabashed return to the international stage of rock & roll. For the follow-up, the quintet decided to strip things back a bit: eleven songs, thirty-five minutes, eight days of recording. About the Hardest Nut to Crack makes the band’s debt to the Faces even more overt than usual, but that’s fine – without Ronnie Lane and Ian McLagan around, there can’t really be a Faces anyway, and co-leaders Sulo and the Duke of Honk write songs in that 1970s glam-fueled rock & soul style as well as anyone, including their inspirations. The rollicking opener “Got a Rock N Roll Record” sets the pace, all Chuck Berry riffs, blue-eyed soul shouts, and Johnny Johnson piano celebrating nothing so much as itself. Further in, the band shows easy mastery of bluesy crunch (“Down On the Debris Field”), rough glam (“Blowout Game”), sardonic folk rock (“Old Timer”), lighter-waving balladry (“Only a Whim”), and further exercises in good ol’…well, you know (“Hearts Gone Wrong,” “Guru’s Gangsters,” “Wring It Out”). After all that, there isn’t any other way to end the album other than the rousing “Rising From the Ruins (of Rock N Roll)” – especially since that’s exactly what Diamond Dogs do, every time.
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