You know the part in the movie Bring It On where there’s a montage of Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku watching old movies and dances to incorporate them into a kick-ass cheerleading routine for them to lose with at the end of the movie? I can picture Sam Coffey doing a similar type of thing as he prepared to write the Sam Coffey and The Iron Lungs‘ new album, Real One. Except, instead of the dancing, cheerleading and of course losing; Coffey raided his parents’ record collection (or at least looked up the albums on Spotify) to get the sounds from some of the best songs and artists of the 60s through the mid-80s to write one of the best albums I have heard in a long time.
Real One, out February 19, 2021 via Dine Alone Records, is the first album from Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs since their self-titled album in 2017. In that time, Coffey and crew have grown as musicians and it really shows on the new album.
Back in October 2020 or so (it was still warm enough in Toronto for me to be sitting on my porch in the evening enjoying a beer) the band, along with a local radio station, hosted a virtual movie night through the magic of Netflix and a Chrome extension and we were able to watch Jaws together and chat. Once the movie finished, instead of playing a set as they did when these movie nights were held in the days before Covid (A few years ago they hosted a screening of Detroit Rock City), the band posted a link to the YouTube video for the first song off the album, “Back With The Gang.”
Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs are a six-piece band from Toronto, Canada. Made up of Sam Coffey on vocals and guitars, Joel “French” Desbois and Liam Doyle on guitar, drummer Connor Glen, Richard Stanley on bass and Dave Tyson on keys. The record, which is pressed on cool-looking purple and gold vinyl, opens with “Back With The Gang,” a guitar-driven song that fits in with what fans of the band have come to expect from the boys over their last couple albums. They’re back, and they are ready to have a shit-ton of fun.
“What the City Needs,” the last single released before the album drops, continues in the same vein as the opening track. You can hear how much fun the band had recording it; Coffey’s big grin shining through the speakers. I like it when I listen to a new song or album by a band that I’ve been following for a while and it sounds familiar, like a comfortable pair of kicks. I love it when they try taking things in a new direction and it works. For most of Real One, I get the impression that Coffey stepped outside of his comfort zone and really pushed himself to try some new sounds…and it really worked.
The third track on the record, “Magic” threw me for a loop the first time I heard it. I actually stopped what I was doing and checked my phone to see that I was still listening to the same band. Sure enough, it was definitely Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs. “Magic” is softer than what I was expecting. It has a bit of a country feel with Coffey’s vocals taking on a softer tone with a bit of twang making for a really pretty love song that has potential for the wedding circuit.
Side one of the record ends with “Gates of Heaven,” a seven-minute epic that really shows the band’s versatility. In it, Coffey really went outside the lines of what an Iron Lungs song could be. He demonstrates an amazing vocal range and at times almost sounding like David Bowie. The song features an amazing strings and horns arrangement. Towards the end of the song, backing vocalist Sianteuse channeled Merry Clayton’s performance from The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”
“15 Minutes,” the first song on side B of the record, opens with Tyson showing what he can do on the piano. When the rest of the band and horns come in, the arrangement is perfect. No instrument is overpowering any other and Coffey’s vocals are smooth as silk throughout. If this song was written in the mid-70s, I could picture Jim Steinman and Meatloaf wanting to steal it for “Bat Of Hell.”
One of my favorite tracks on the record is “Sprit of the Radio,” a banger of a guitar tune and bringing the band back to their garage/indie roots. “RUN Angel,” the second to last song on the album takes the band in another new direction with Coffey crooning along to a slower guitar riff. It has a very 50s rock n’ roll feel with the minimal orchestration and falsetto (which is quite impressive). On the final track, “Real One,” Coffey truly went all out to show what he is capable of. His voice sounds completely different, to the point that I reached out to see if it was him singing.
In the four years since the release of their last album the members of the band have grown up, found love and really discovered who they are musically. Real One proves that a band doesn’t have to pump out the same type of album time and time again. Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs have shown that a band can step outside their comfort zone and do it really well.
I can’t wait until venues reopen and I can go to concerts again. I’ve got a very good feeling that Sam will hit the stage, not in Elvis-inspired jumpsuits like he’s been known to do in the past, but decked out in a long, flowing purple velvet cape with (fake) ermine trim and possibly a crown.