The argument over how obvious a band’s influences should be is messy. Identifying when an artist tips from homage into mimickry depends on personal taste and a bothersome feeling that you’ve heard this before.
Somewhere on the latter end of the spectrum is where we find San Diego psychedelic rock outfit Blackfeet Braves on their self-titled debut album. The group pulls heavily from the past, so much so that there’s little else to the album. Opening with “Mystic Rabbit”, the galloping, western guitar riff sounds like it’s going to be a good time, but the song quickly hits a Dire Straits groove, Mark Knopfler annunciation included, that washes over the next 12 tracks.
Blackfeet Braves also leans heavily on surf guitar, like in “Misery Loves Company” which owes much to The Chantays’ 1963 instrumental “Pipeline”. Similarly, “Cloud 9” features salty lines and familiar woozy, lo-fi vocals that coast over high-pitched 60’s styled synths. That sounds like a choice blend, but there’s this medium tempo that treads water throughout most of the album, which has the effect of making some of the tracks indistinct from one other.
The point is never to tease out every little similarity to some musical work that’s come before, but internalizing and replicating are two different matters. Blackfeet Braves has a strong hold on this ’60s west coast sound, but the challenge remains how to make it relevant decades later when just making a cool sound doesn’t cut it.
Essential Tracks: “Misery Love Company”