(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, October 11, 2010

CD review - The Gay Blades, Savages (2010)

Savages has a touch of "snotty boys with guitars", especially on the first track, Rock N' Roll (Part I), but it's infused with an overwrought expressive pop. That first track, which has nothing to do the Gary Glitter song, has rich wailing guitars and a heavy grind. It's dirty rock and roll. The vocals have the perfect amount of sneering attitude: "I'm gettin' while the gettin's good."

Then the Gay Blades don't so much drop the ball as decide they want to change the game. Try To Understand is much more typical of the album. It took me a while to figure out why it sounded so familiar. They've effectively reworked Thin Lizzy's Vagabond of the Western World. The music is retro pop, with a straight rock bounce. But the vocals are affected and over the top.The effect is like a stage musical piece; there's a disconnect between the fraught vocals, the bouncy pop, and the light weight lyrics.

The songs thrown in some surprise moves, with genre jumping bridges and a few good dance beats. There is also a moment of cognitive dissonance with November Fight Song, which lays down sado-masochistic lyrics to the changes of Gentle On My Mind. Throughout Savages, the vocals are overly emotional and heavy. At their best, it's a bit like Freddie Mercury if he fronted a more straightforward rock band. Or maybe what the Violent Femmes could do if they'd had a better ear for pop.

Despite the vocal affectation, Savages is still quite listenable. The tunes are catchy and the drummer has a really nice touch for propelling the songs forward. If the singer were as subtle, the Gay Blades would be a better band. To my ear, the harder edged songs stand up the best: Rock N Roll (Part I), Why Winter in Detroit?, and Burns and Shakes. Drop by their site and give them a listen. Wine coolers all around!

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