I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Rich Kid Express - "Bubblegum Radio EP"
Label: Squib Kick Records, 2020
Genre: Hard Rock/Power Pop
Run Time: 17:59
Rich Kid Express (stylized as "Expre$$," apparently) is a new retro-flavored hard rock band comin' straight outta Advance, North Carolina. Their debut EP, with the intriguing title of Bubblegum Radio, was released in February 2020... actually, a quick scan of the promotional info that accompanied these five tracks reveals that "band" isn't exactly the right term to describe this project. As it turns out, Rich Kid Express is the creation of one person—Squib Kick Records honcho Rob Richardson, who started RKE as a vehicle to "bring back the vintage vibe of hard rock" that he loved in his youth.
Rob sings and performs all the instruments on Bubblegum Express and the EP's promo pack says that "you'll know exactly what to expect [from these tunes] if you were a teenager in the '70s and '80s... and liked Glam Rock and Headbanger's Ball."
As a former '80s kid, who fondly remembers the golden eras of hair metal and the Headbangers Ball, I'm obviously the target demographic that Rob is aiming for with RKE. So let's press "play" and see what's happenin' on Bubblegum Radio!
"You Went Too Far"
Bubblegum Radio kicks off with the hard rockin' "You Went Too Far," a straight-ahead hair-metal track whose main riff recalls Kingdom Come's "Do You Like It?" The guitar solo is impressive and Richardson's laid-back but authoritative lead vocal style recalls Ace Frehley, Robin (Cheap Trick) Zander, or Rex (X-Sinner) Scott. I was already air-guitaring along with this song on the very first spin and thinking "we're off to a good start!"
"The Way She Rolls" will certainly not win any awards for lyrical originality ("I like the way she rocks, but I love the way she rolls!"), but it's a fun, slick '80s hard rock track wrapped around a burly bass line and more impressive guitar work.
"Bubblegum Radio" is obviously the track on this EP that's nearest and dearest to Richardson's heart. It instantly recalls the '70s likes of the Sweet, Slade or T-Rex with its march-along drum rhythms and hand-claps, and the lyrics recall the joy that kids of the '70s felt when they heard songs like "Ballroom Blitz" on the radio. When Richardson laments, "I miss those lipstick and leather days," I'm sure more than a few listeners will nod their heads in agreement and say, "me too, pal!"
"Just a Dog" is a sturdy slice of melodic AOR with more than a hint of Pyromania-era Def Leppard flavor, and the EP comes to a close with the chunky, catchy "Steamroller," another solid hard-rock track with a raunchy feel and a suitably sinister chorus.
But Wait, There's More!
Rich Kid Express followed up the release of Bubblegum Express with an additional digital single in April of 2020: a cover of the Ohio Express' bubblegum-pop essential from 1968, "Yummy Yummy Yummy." I'll be honest, I've never cared much for this particular song (I was always more of an Archies' "Sugar Sugar" kind of kid) but I'll grant that RKE does this golden oldie justice, and it serves as a nice "bonus track" to the EP.
"Yummy Yummy Yummy" (Ohio Express cover)
Summing It Up
I've reviewed my fair share of one-man (or two-man) projects for this fine site over the years, and I'm always impressed by (and perhaps slightly envious of) people who can not only sing, but play multiple musical instruments, and do it all well. Meanwhile, I'm a schmuck who's lucky if I can walk and chew gum at the same time. (haha!)
If you're interested in climbing on board the Rich Kid Express, you can find out more info and check out the tunes from Bubblegum Radio at their Bandcamp page. You can also visit Squib Kick Records' official Facebook page, which is also home to several other retro-rock acts that sound intriguing, like Atomic Lip Bomb and The Bad Something. Looks like I've got some more listening to do.
I really enjoyed this "rookie card" release and recommend it to fans of classic '70s and '80s hard rock. This style of music may have been driven underground, but it will never die as long as there are dedicated players like the Rich Kid Express out there keeping it alive!
© 2020 Keith Abt