By The Black Box Revelation
The debut album from Brussels' The Black Box Revelation kicks off with the sleazy rock and roll of 'Love, Love Is On My Mind.' Erratic drumbeats, jerky riffs and Jan Paternoster's all-over-the-place vocals give this album-opener the sort of vibrant-but-ramshackle energy you'd expect from a live performance. Paternoster has an unusual, throaty timbre and a willingness to try different vocal techniques; 'Love, Love In On My Mind' has him cawing, yelping, and laughing manically before he flips back to his standard rock and roll drawl.
'Love, Love Is On My Mind' is scuzzy rock with distinctive vocals, delivered with all the rough-and-ready energy of a live show. It gets the 'Set Your Head On Fire' full-length off to a fantastic start.
Second track 'I Think I Like You' sees The Black Box Revelation crack out the tambourines. Paternoster turns out his effortlessly cool vocals against a backdrop where each rattle of the tambourine is accentuated by a sharp drumbeat, making for a very pronounced, country-bumpkin bounce. The tambourine is relegated to the sidelines for a swaggering rock and roll chorus of long, ringing riffs, infused with a dose of poppy vocals.
'I Think I Like You' is another slice of non-faddy, off-kilter indie with only a tedious, overlong instrumental mid-section preventing it from attaining perfection. This is the sort of thing the NME would love, and with good reason.
'Love In Your Head' is another song that goes in for an overlong, instrumental mid-section, which is odd, as it also boasts a funky, industrial-tinged instrumental ending, which is pretty much a master class in how to make the instrumental enthralling.
Elsewhere, 'Love In Your Head' has a steadier, sleazier groove, throwing up walls of languid, buzzy riffs and embellishing them with gasped main vocals, and whining backing vocals. 'Love In Your Head' may be a bit sparse on the vocal and lyrical front, but it's far from a boring, instrumental trudge. The crackly, sleazily slow-burning tune can more than hold its own.
If you enjoyed 'Love In Your Head' then 'Cold, Cold Hands' should be next on your play list. Following closely in 'Love In Your Head's footsteps, this steady-rocking song delivers plenty of scuzzy, sleazy guitars and fuzzy vocals.
The lurching groove of 'Gravity Blues' is jam-packed with awkward-but-catchy hooks, ala The White Stripes, as jagged riffs hitch across Paternoster's rough-and-ready vocals. The juddering, unpolished edge of Paternoster's vocals, and the purposefully poorly tuned guitars, ensures that 'Gravity Blues' is bristling with hooks, without ever seeming to be trying too hard. 'Gravity Blues' is self-conscious indie cool, made to look natural.
'Stand Your Ground' sees The Black Box Revelation make use of some very unusual percussion, with a clunky, wooden beat underpinning the song, most notably during the verses. The knocking-on-wood percussion is accompanied by hitching riffs and a call-and-response vocal style, with some incredibly catchy, whingeing backing vocals. This is one verse you'll need a crowbar to remove from your frontal lobe.
Even better, 'Stand Your Ground' has a headrush chorus, topped off with life-affirming vocals. Paternoster's kooky vocals may be exposed to far too intense scrutiny on the stripped-down bridge section but, that minor niggle aside, 'Stand Your Ground' is quirky, unusual indie-rock at its best.
Sitting pretty much centre stage in an album's worth of consistently strong material, it's shocking how bad 'Never Alone, Always Together' actually is. 'Never Alone...' plods bloodlessly along, and commits the cardinal sin of thrusting Paternoster's voice at the listener with scant musical accompaniment. The very vocals that sounded so distinctive and quirky against a rounded musical backdrop, sound odd, grating and surprisingly unpleasant when heard in near isolation. Definitely cause to press the 'skip' button.
'We Never Wondered Why' takes all the things that makes this album great - namely the unusual percussion, the jangly tambourine, buzzsaw guitar and off-kilter, cartoonish backing vocals - and combines them in a riotous, shamelessly fun song. Skipping joyously between jerking guitars, dumb, bouncing drumbeats, and silly backing vocals, 'We Never Wondered Why' is a song that demands you dance along or, at the very least, grin like an idiot.
'I Don't Want It' employs classier, hard-rock riffs and a chorus of urgent vocals that perfectly complement this song's rock and roll swagger. Unfortunately, 'I Don't Want It' also employs that quirky percussion, which sits uncomfortably next to this song's classy, old school vibe. But, irritating percussion aside, 'I Don't Want It' is an accomplished melodic-hard-rock meets indie mash-up, and The Black Box Revelation clearly have the confidence to pull off this potentially tricky sound.
The Black Box Revelation's debut full-length veers more towards the 'rock' end of the indie-rock spectrum, but with liberal helpings of indie kookiness to keep proceedings varied. 'Set Your Head On Fire' flicks between sleazy rock and roll, and indie awkwardness, and manages to pull both off without appearing to break a sweat. Cool, poised indie-rock, with some real substance behind it, The Black Box Revelation are custom-made for those with a soft spot for indie, but a horror of the current indie-dance/indie-electro trends.