The self-titled debut album by psyched-out retro blues rockers Blues Pills understandably made a huge impact on its release two years ago. Not only was it one of the few albums of its kind to genuinely coalesce all its constituent elements into a strong, powerful and cohesive manner which did not feel forced and shaped by the conditions of commercial contracts, but it was also one of the first, in quite a long period of time to feature an equally strong and powerful female voice at the forefront of its sound.
This, their second album, sees them eschew much of the psychedelia in favour of a more soulful, almost-entirely blues based approach. This is evidenced from the moment that Elin Larsson opens her gorgeous throat on the opening track, evoking the spirit of Janis Joplin with her combination of waif-like insecurity and assured strut. This is emphasized immediately on ‘Little Boy Preacher’, with Larsson’s pity-meets-revengeful refrain of “he’s a liar, liar, liar” over the song’s dense swirling atmospheric.
The psychedelic elements are still there, as on the aforementioned second track and the intro to the spiteful ‘Burned Out’, which sees Larsson reach down into the darkest depths of her register before reaching for summits again with her plea to “release me”. Again, the riff grunts and grinds underneath, before the middle section takes the listener on an unexpected sideways journey which loops back round into the main refrain, which in turn transforms into a loose jam outro.
‘I Felt A Change’ features a stunning bluesy performance from Larsson, with just her rich voice over a beautiful taut piano melody, underpinned with a suitably darkened atmospheric synth refrain and delivered in a way which freakishly reminds me of Belfast’s own Kaz Hawkins. The song finishes with a thumping bass bump which eases effortlessly into the opening of ‘Gone So Long’, which is characterized by a laconic, mournful riff which slowly builds in intensity as Larsson once again loses herself in the passion of the play unfolding around her: it also features one of Dorian Sorriaux’s rare guitar solos, which is suitably morose and understated.
‘Bad Talkers’ picks the pace up, opening on a rapacious snare drive from André Kvarnström before evolving into a boogie-fuelled groove which is infectious in its jazzy swing, while the awesome ‘You Gotta Try’ demonstrates just exactly why Erin Larsson is quickly establishing herself as possibly the best female blues vocalist working in the hard rock mien, combining dark passion with joyous celebration in equal measure.
‘Won’t Go Back’ is another of the album’s more upbeat tracks, a cocky hip-shimmying swagger across the dancefloor, its tongue tantalisingly lipping its lips with its salcious invitation to slip deep inside its invitingly warm embrace. ‘Rejection’ bumps and grinds with a spirit which belies its title, with its deliverer instead rising above the same to prove herself a stronger woman, turning her back on those who have sought to put her down in another darkly groove-laden encapsulation of the lyrical themes which permeate the album as a whole. Closer ‘Elements And Things’ things off in almost triumphant style, with Larsson asking “can you see the lightning?” and challenging our fear of the things that make the world around us so gloriously brilliant, celebrating the vibrancy and energy of both the environment and the creative processes which have helped to craft this equally gorgeous album.
Tracklist: Lady In Gold / Little Boy Preacher / Burned Out / I Felt A Change / Gone So Long / Bad Talkers / You Gotta Try/ Won’t Go Back / Rejection / Elements And Things
Recommended listening: Little Boy Preacher / You Gotta Try
‘Lady In Gold’ is released via Nuclear Blast on Friday 5 August.
Blues Pills play Steelhouse Festival, in Ebbw Vale, on Saturday (23 July). They then return to the UK and Ireland for the following headline dates:
Tuesday 1 November – Wolverhampton, Slade Rooms
Wednesday 2 November – Glasgow, Classic Grand
Friday 4 November – Dublin, Voodoo Lounge
Saturday 5 November – Manchester, Club Academy
Sunday 6 November – London, Koko
Tuesday 8 November – Bristol, Marble Factory
Support on the above dates comes from Kadavar.