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The Gay Blades – Savages

on October 04, 2010, 7:58am
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As a sonic universe in and of itself, today’s blues-rock has yielded two especially interesting dichotomies: the bizarro fairy tales of demon women from The Dead Weather and the working man grunge and heartache of The Black Keys. But while both live in the same decrepit, battered home on opposing ends of different floors, there lies space in between the floorboards for a genetic cousin in The Gay Blades. With their dirty boots planted in the ground and their guitar-laden brains in the clouds, the band’s sophomore album Savages represents an unseen musical concept in the dark, heavy jungle of modern blues-rock: bona fide pop music.

That pop music feel is best exemplified in a kind of naïve abandonment as opposed to the more sullen disgrace or out and out fury of some of their contemporaries. The height of that abandonment is hit early in the album with “Try To Understand”, a sax-heavy track that burns with the rock and roll energy of some revival in a backwoods town or an Anywhere, USA senior prom, with all the intensity and heartache and confusion and utter thrill that goes along with the panicked, sweat-soaked epiphanies. But that doesn’t mean they can’t develop beyond the initial flash-in-the-pan appeal. “Wasted on the Youth” has a bit of the afterglow of that youthful energy; it wallows in an acoustic glory, drenched in vocals of pure defeat, creating a balance between some of the down-home elements and the pomp and circumstance of Top 40. But in terms of a balance between the two, “Burns and Shakes” should draw a lot of attention. It’s a slow start, but by the ending barrage of jamming guitars and distorted wailing, they’ve given you a roundhouse kick to remind you they’re not just about gooey emotions; these boys can rock.

Of course, it’s a good thing “Burns and Shakes” comes so close to the end of the album, as you’d forget about their rockin’ skills in a lot of the rest of the LP’s offerings. The problem with too much pop is that it can water down that destructive tinge that makes blues-rock so thrilling in the first place. “Shadow’s Like A Ghost” and “Too Cool To Quit” are equally as guilty of overt and borderline-offensive rock gone soft. “Too Cool To Quit” and its title aren’t even the worst part of this manic dive toward the bad-hair metal end of the rock pool. The former’s blown-out piano line and cries to Heaven above go beyond any sort of coyness and breakdown into sheer hymn-like hell. But while those tracks are annoying, “Every Night Is Like A Revival” is truly the most disappointing of them all. In hitting a lot of the same notes and concepts as some of its aforementioned musically-pleasing brethren, it falls short in the most basic pitfall of pop music: inconsistency. The songs that worked did so because they had a great message that sparkled with despair and yet were wrapped in the warmth of a pop hook. Now they’ve resorted to tossing aside the depth for the rush of a mediocre chorus.

Maybe it’s unfair to put this “trash pop” duo from Brooklyn in the same league as The Dead Weather’s and The Black Key’s of the world. Sure, they come close to finding their own little niche in between the nooks and crannies of the others’ bombastic creations, but some of those little rock-pop hybrids just aren’t that interesting. In the end, it’s up to you to put them where you want, genre-wise. Otherwise, they might just get lost in the shuffle.

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