Artist: Alabama Shakes
Album: Boys & Girls
Seriously. Why even waste the ink on printing an album cover that looks like that? This is worse than printing nothing. One of the dullest album covers I have ever seen. Unfortunately, it sets the tone for the music enclosed inside. This record will probably be popular and well-received by dads everywhere, but Lord am I sick of this stuff. The Black Keys ruined throwback garage/soul/rock for everyone. So did the Hold Steady. I guess Jack White kind of got the whole thing moving in the first place, so maybe we can blame him. Why this isn’t tired to everyone else is beyond me. Lo and behold, this music still sells better than just about anything. Perhaps that classic 70’s blues-rock just perfectly sits down in that target audience of record collector scum and teenage outcasts; these bands will continue to thrive until the corpses of my dad’s buddies decay beyond recognition, until those Hendrix-worshipping kids discover mp3 blogs.
The hooking single “Hold On” is admittedly worth listening to more than once, but I doubt I could stomach it more than three times this year. These are the kind of guitar riffs that you learned in high school jazz band. There was a time when a girl who could belt it out–and yeah, play an electric guitar–like this impressed me without my giving it a second thought. I kept listening because it was fascinating. But as I grew up a little bit, I realized I wasn’t listening to music that I actually thought sounded good. There are a million more interesting ways to sling a guitar, to create emotion, to structure a song than this gospel rock trope; this horse has been killed, beaten, buried, dug up again, mutilated, resurrected and killed again. Enough.
I’m reaching to find a few things that hold my attention for more than a line of a verse. She can still sing. The songs are mercifully on the short side, for the most part. I’m having a GMail chat with a friend as I write this review, and we’re discussing the band. He tells me the Alabama Shakes have received a fair amount of buzz in the last months. NPR and all that. The bottom line is that I don’t care who you are or how you made it if I don’t like it. There’s no risk in this music anymore, and I don’t understand how it could possibly move or inspire anyone. That’s a pretty harsh criticism, but one that I feel like standing up with.
One last thing: “Hang Loose” is a cool song. I’m giving them this one song. The guitar part is cool, and the pedal tone on the piano works wonders. Even the chorus displays a nice little explosion. They kind of ruin it with the end of the song, but the beat is pretty phat, so I’m giving them this one song. This one song.
by Will Anderson