When I first head about the union of former Pretty Girls Make Graves member, Jay Clark, with two of the Blood Brothers, I was salivating in wake for the release of a full length. The potential for this combination could reach no bounds in my imagination, but come to find out, there are some boundaries for this band.
The opening track, “Highways of Gold,” fails to let me down. Each time I play this song I’m invigorated by the rise and fall of the guitar work, as it approaches the angular tour de force that I anticipated. Had they reined it in about thirty seconds, then this could be a front runner for one of my favorites of the year.
I suppose that at this point, I should let you know that singer Johnny Whitney’s voice can be grating. Personally, I’ve adapted to it after settling in to several Blood Brothers’ albums, but I can foresee this as a problem for many listeners. If you can’t look past it in the first song, then you can’t get through this album.
Still, the next three songs are solid tracks. In particular, “Georgia” won me over with its proximity to a modern indie ballad done in the post-punk way. Lyrically, these songs set the face, from the doomsday homages in “Jaguar Pirates” to the personal pain that comes with “Georgia,” which still kind of deals with the effects of living in the modern world.
However, the album starts to get repetitive at this point. The musicianship is exactly what you expect, with tight drumming and throbbing bass, piled upon razor-sharp guitars, but at this point it kind of blends into itself. There isn’t any differentiation in the vocals, and the music, like a Blood Brothers album, or the later Pretty Girls Make Graves records for that fact. It’s not that the music is uninteresting, but the pace and power disappear.
Then comes the eighth track on the record, “Bone Trees and a Broken Heart,” which is another slow song for the group. Strangely, their slower songs are just as intriguing to my ears as their louder material. For me, it represents the talent this group possesses, not to mention their abilities to go pretty much anywhere on this record. It’s just too bad that they don’t really go anywhere, aside from the expected barrage of noise I predicted in my earlier fantasies of this band.
Once you get away from Whitney’s vocals, you’ll find–those of you that like to rock–that this record has a lot of redeemable qualities about it. It’s listenable all the way through, at least for those of this ilk. It might not be anything that takes you out of this world, but then again, it meets almost all of my expectations. Good start fellas, now hit the showers.