Category Archives: B

524. Black Keys – “El Camino”

Popping out of the Ms for a couple of reviews of purchases that post-date their respective letter.

The Black Keys El Camino Album CoverNot too many albums on here are Grammy winners.  I don’t to buy much from bands who appeal to crusty industry folks.

But this album did win Best Rock Album. Like so many actors and directors who get an award for the film after their really good performances, this opus doesn’t quite reach the heights of my fave Rubber Factory. But it’s the best output from their evolved fuller band, Dangermouse-produced selves.

This already confident band strides through this recording with Kanye-like swagger. They draw upon a greater breadth of styles from across their career, and on one track take the slow-loud blues approach to perhaps it’s eternal apex.

The tune in question is Little Black Submarine which kicks off like a Jack White number and seems to be staying in that heartfelt troubador space for the opening minute before naturally build to a whole new wig out space.  In the end, it’s stunning that it is only a 3:32 track:

I find myself returning to this album very regularly, probably as often as Rubber Factory, which says a lot for its chops.  Here’s to the long-awaited 2014 release.

File under: I’m van hailing

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500. Beastie Boys – “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two”

It is appropriate that I should hit the much-delayed five-zero-zero with an album which was also tardy, numerically inclined, and from an act who’ve been occupying a very high possie on my all-time rankings since way back.

album cover a CD Review  Beastie Boys Hot Sauce Committee Part Two 2Even more exciting is that this album is a welcome return to form from an act who I felt had gone off the boil.

Despite looking like crusty old bastards, the trio have clearly supped from some magic youth-rejuvenating potion.

The album takes a thankful glance over the shoulder to a simpler time of MCing. The beats are both tinny and fat.  The effects and samples feel like they were patched together in an analogue world, and I personally feel like I’m in a happier, simpler time.

The humour doesn’t seem forced. The name-dropping (Lee Majors, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam amongst many) will have anyone under the age of about 38 scratching their head, yet it’s hard to imagine anyone not feeling the urge to throwthemselves around and to party for their MFing right to fight!

While the album is startlingly coherent, my only real criticism is the lack of an absolute killer single (other than the celeb-heavy clip above goes damn close)… but I wanna hear everything on here again.

File under: No hidden agenda

Bonus for the 500th review: the extended 30 min version of the above clip (with much more silliness and a few more famous folks):

497. Bright Eyes – “The People’s Key”

Here’s another act we caught live in NYC.  The attraction was really the venue (Radio City Music Hall), and a couple of cool-ish supports (, Wild Flag, and Wild Flag).

But I had some inkling that I’d quite enjoyed reviewing an earlier Bright Eyes release, and the chance to see them showcase a new CD was appealing.

I went along expecting a pretty mellow, warbly singer-songwriter affair, with perhaps a little artiness.

What we got was an elaborate, full-band, full-blown art-rock extravaganza, which matches perfectly to the content of this recording.

The CD abounds with whacked out Rasta imagery, lengthy soundbites of some very creepy L.Ron Hubbard-esque rambling and refreshingly organic electro sounds.  The drums in particularly are well-mixed (and live were reproduced through multiple drummers – Modest Mouse style), while Oberst’s vocals are much stronger than I expected.

The songwriting is expectedly verbose and eccentric, and rewards multiple listens. This album reminds me most, in terms of overall feel, with the recent Arcade Fire effort, and I’d certainly be delighted to see these two acts back-to-back on some festival stage.

Last time I reviewed BE I promised to pick up some more of their albums. This album reminds me I need to do just that (plus the Wild Flag debut). If you’re unsure, you can watch/hear this entire album here:

File under: Ear-opening

496. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears – “Scandalous”

This is the album BJL and his sweet furry buddies were showcasing then we caught them live back in May.

It must be a blast having such a brash, party-inducing groovathon to drag around the stages of the world.

This album is bigger and sleazier and even more confident than their last. The riffs are a bit more up-front and the horns are sharper. In essence the album feels louder.

Mr.Lewis sounds a little more ragged, like a slightly weary and exhausted bluesman on the wrong side of a three-week bender, rather than a natty-suited Cee-Lo-esque soulster. That doesn’t step him belting out the tunes however.

The songwriting is appropriate to the genre(s) –  a lot of mentions of “baby”, “booty”, “lyin'” and “lovin'”.  It’s not exactly high literature, but you’ll feel the jukejoints, roadtrips and very late nights right down to your bones.

The scatting on the opener works perfectly with the horn-heavy groove:

And once the lads invite us all along to the magical town of Booty City, I start to wonder why this album isn’t compulsory listening for all red-blooded humans:

File under: Should be making more headlines than corduroy pillowcases

 

 

 

 

 

495. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears – “Tell ’em what your name is!”

One of my three readers mentioned she was missing my reviews, so here I am back again…

Our stay in New York saw us pick up a variety of new CDs from the A-L section.  This here is one of two from an Austin band I’d never heard of before, but can’t seem to stop recommending.

This soul-funk collection takes a fresh, modern approach to some very familiar sounds.  It’s all horns, funky bass, call and responses, shouted choruses and a big, raw vibe.

We caught these guys on stage in NYC and they are absolute crowd-pleasers. It’s not surprising they are becoming festival regulars down under (and elsewhere).  The work is super approachable.  Energy levels are high and happy.

This is the sort of work you could imagine a young James Brown pumping out (there’s even a track with the “please, please…” chorus!), with a little Wilson Pickett thrown in for good measure.

I love the humour and playfulness of this CD, and the swings between slower grooves and the more frenetic.  Here are my two favourite tracks:

File under: Climb onboard this soultrain

383. Ben Harper and The Blind Boys of Alabama – “There Will be a Light”

I picked up this little collaborative effort after being won over by the septuagenarian Blind Boys up at Bluesfest a few years back.  It seemed a fun why to check out their recording acumen.

I am a bit of a sucker for gospel action, especially when melded with a bit of bluesiness. This is a reasonable effort as Harper pens a set of tunes that capture the essence of the genre, and provides the Blind Boys with ample space to display their still impressive vocal ranges and harmonising. The covers are well-chosen and suitably rousing.

It’s not a life-changing CD in any way (although I guess it could be if you’re looking for a bit of the saving and redemption and all that jazz), but it does work well on a Sunday morning.

As a random aside, we’ve been immersed in The Wire and I have delighted in the Blind Boy’s theme song action (and stunned to see our favourite blind barkeeper cruelly executed last week – ooops, I probably should have said “spoiler alert”!):

File under: More delight than blight

369. The Black Keys – “Brothers”

Here’s one final recent purchase before we dive into H-land.

The Black Keys have a lot to live up to around here, perched as they are atop my ranking list.

They’ve never been reluctant to explore new avenues and move beyond garageland.  While last time, they seemed keener on the experiment than the hits, this time round they have really nailed a new sound, one more soulful and southern.

Dan’s increasingly falsetto vocals match the funkier sound, and some of the grooves are simply irresistable.

I’ve resigned myself to them never retreating back to the simple two-man outfit feeding off huge, pounding drum riffs.  Next Girl and Ten Cent Pistol are probably the closest they get here:

Luckily, even a slightly more staid BKs still kicks the arse of pretty much any outfit out there.

The Blakroc adventure has added a new rhythm-method to the BK arsenal.  Tighten Up is an immediate classic sure to be sampled in the years to come:

This album doesn’t require or prompt the neighbour-raising volumes of their early work. Instead it reflects two music lovers and genuine artists laying down a delicious feast of varied flavours, sweet, spicy and soulful.

File under: Soul Brothers #1 & 2