Tag Archives: rock

441. Kings of Leon – “Aha Shake Heartbreak”

As second albums go, this one sits at the rare intersection of Not Disappointing Street and Failing To Capture Me Somehow Boulevard.

The problem I have with Southern rock is that it needs to be very very good to keep me interested.  There are far too many bands out there who can lay down slight sloppy, country tinged, stadium-ready rocky.

There is a tough balancing act on the ‘bad-boy’ front too, with any combo of black-hat-wearing Country-music or Jimmy Morrison-homage likely to turn me off.

On their debut the Kings hit the mark far more than most such bands do even in a career. It was gonna be hard to meet my expectations here. At times they do.  I love the rambling mid-album combo of Milk and Soft as Caleb’s vocals get even more garbled and self-mocking (I hope it’s self-mocking!) than usual. The Bucket plays to their emerging stadium strengths quite well, but much of the album seems a little desperate and deliberately ‘dangerous’:

My understanding is that these guys exploded into huge fan favourites on the back of their third album, and that they have managed to achieve a female fan-base considerably larger than similarly sounding acts.

I abandoned them before than, however, feeling I’d had a satisfactory fill of their work, and that it was heading in a manufactured rock direction that didn’t appeal.

File under: Not a Norwegian Billy Cyrus cover band

130. Various Artists – “Born to Run, Volume Two”

I found another “B” down in the compilations section, and thought I’d break up the Campbell Carnivale with this review.

This is the most interesting type of Uncut magazine compilations where they throw together various existing cover versions, plus organise some new interpretations of some music legends’ oeuvre. This time its the Boss under the microscope.

Born to Run 2003 Springsteen Uncut Magazine Album CoverThe choices of tracks here are appropriately “righteous” for a serious mag like Uncut. Not much off Born in the USA or his late 80s/early 90s albums. Much more off Born to Run, Nebraska etc.

The artists are similarly legitimate (and a few are regular faces from my collection). Ed Harcourt delivers a fine version of Atlantic City. Steve Earle‘s State Trooper didn’t sound out of place on his ‘Guitar Town’ and works well here. Billy Bragg‘s Mountain on the Hill is from his very awkward ‘trying to sing American’ phase and is a blight on this CD.

The most interesting tracks come from artists who take Broooce’s work someplace different. I don’t mean Jesse Malin‘s lame Elmer Fudd version of Hungry Heart, but rather Heather Nova‘s breathy I’m on Fire and The Knack‘s very 80s Don’t Look Back. Sonny BurgessTiger Rose sounds like Elvis reincarnate.

This works as a testament to Springsteen’ songwriting skills.

File under: A racey little collection

76. The Black Keys – “Thickfreakness”

We’re back in world of vinyl, and also stepping back McFly-style into The Black Key’s musical past. 

the-black-keys-thickfreakness-album-coverThis was their second release, and listened to in the shadow of the follow-up Rubber Factory it is even more apparent how much the production effort was raised for that current blog chart-topper.

The approach here is much more basic.  The duo sound more black and more blue here than on any of their other releases. 

Dan’s vocals are muddier – more like grunts than articulated thoughts. The sound is more singular, with a consistent set of riffs and beats stretching from song to song.  It creates a very coherent piece of work, but one lacking the strong individual efforts of the band’s debut and followup. 

It still has the desired primal effect, and translates wonderfully into the live arena, but pressed to pick between their long-players this wouldn’t be my first choice.

File under: A dollop of dense blues rock

75. The Black Keys – “Rubber Factory”

A very long-running gag amongst a few mates and I is to interrupt anyone starting a story “I woke up this morning…” with a verbal approximation of a blues guitar riff.

the-black-keys-rubber-factory-album-coverOf course, this springs from the tendency of old-time bluesmen to start many a lament in such a way. 

Therefore, it always thrills me when Dan and Pat unleash just such a pairing on Grown So Ugly (and follow through with a truly brilliant tune).  It is a shame that this is track #8, not #1. Having said that, the opening couple of tracks (When the Lights Go Out and 10AM Automatic) are on par.

Indeed, this album lacks for any filler.  The great tracks just keep coming. Stack Shot Billy and Girl is On Mind showcase the Keys sound perfectly. 

This is the long player where these guys really come into their own.  The vocals are given just a little more clarity than on their previous two albums, the guitar is crisper and the drums feel alive.  I love how Patrick creates so much more than mere persussion on the kit. I swear he’s playing riffs on them cymbals.

All hail the new kings.

File under: There is power in this factory…

74. Black Diamond Heavies- “Every Damn Time”

There’s some great bio info on the back sleeve of this debut outing.  It turns out that the drummer in this duo comes from a bourbon-distilling family.  Meanwhile, the singer/organist is the literal “son of a preacher man”.  That sounds like the perfect pairing for grimey, soul-tinged rock. 

black-diamond-heavies-every-damn-time-album-coverAs I said in my earlier review of their follow-up, these guys have taken a time-honoured genre and made it all seem new and exciting and dangerous again.  

This album is about as lo-fi as I can tolerate.  The tracks were pretty much recorded directly into a two-track, with only a little bit of horns added in later.  They’ve done a great job of it.  It feels like you standing in the room dodging the sweat as it flies.

The vocals sound just as Waits-ey as on album #2, and the drums and organ work perfectly in unison.  The tales are real and raw, especially the powerful White Bitch.

They are quickly becoming the band that excites me most.  See them live. Buy their stuff. Love them like me. Here are a couple more tracks from them: 

File under: Kick-Arse and Life-Affirming

73. The Black Crowes – “War Paint”

This was supposed to be the big comeback album for the Crowes after a Kate Hudson-caused hiatus (well I think was the explanation I heard).

the-black-crowes-warpaint-album-coverIt caused a bit of an internet furore, when one magazine reviewed it without hearing it. The review was unfavourable, and I guess it serves as a reflection of the low expectations some in the press may have had of this release (as well as the lazy attitude of less-hardworking reviewers than myself).

Bands coming off spells can sometimes struggle. The Crowes hiatus coincided with lead singer Chris Robinson putting out a couple of solo albums which were less polished and more jam-oriented than the BCs.

In many ways this album treads the ground between those efforts and the band’s ’90s work. There is a more country-rock bent and less big riffing.

It is all very competent, but I don’t feel the energy of their early work. They seem to be going through the motions somewhat, although Robinson is a little more versatile vocally than on the ‘mid-career’ work. I’m also concerned by the god-bothering track towards the end. Insufficiently rock’n’roll in attitude there lads.

File under: Not as feisty as I’d like

71. The Black Keys – “The Big Come Up”

As you may have picked up from their mention in my previous review, I am a large fan of Akron, Ohio outfit The Black Keys. I have been heard to describe them as my favourite live band.

the-big-come-up-the-black-keys-album-coverThis was their debut album, and as with Belle and Sebastian, these guys emerged from their chrysalis fully formed, with a sound which set them apart from those around them. 

It is a startlingly simple idea.  One guy playing electric guitar like he’s the reincarnation of some 1920s bluesman, singing very similarly.  The other bloke pounding out a steady beat like there’s no tomorrow, and almost playing riffs on the highhats.  The guitar sings and wails, the lyrics are not always decipherable, but the energy cannot be ignored.  It is music as medicine for the soul. 

This particular recording is perhaps the most rudimentary of the BK’s efforts.  And it is no worse for it.  Their confidence in this sound and approach means that their covers of The Stooges, Beatles and Junior Kimbrough are almost indiscernable from their own tunes. 

And it’s on white vinyl!!

File under: Bluesy bliss