By Alabama Shakes
Alabama Shakes' debut album 'Boys and Girls' arrives on a wave of hype and anticipation following several incendiary live performances at festivals such as the increasingly influential South by Southwest Festival held in Austin, Texas. It's not hard to see why so much attention has been heaped on these unknowns from Athens, Alabama. Their sound is a fusion of Brittany Howard's powerful vocals with reminiscences of Aretha Franklin at her most angry, and Amy Winehouse with R'n'B flavoured Blues Rock that recalls The Black Keys and anything Jack White decides to lend his name to. The tactic of using old tricks with a few new ideas is a popular strategy nowadays; Michael Kiwanuka's 'Home Again' gained great critical acclaim despite sounding as though recorded in the 70's and echoing artists such as Marvin Gaye and Van Morrison. Such a sound isn't surprising considering Alabama Shakes began life as a covers band dealing in the likes of Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Otis Redding and James Brown around the bars and clubs of Athens. At times, the style of 'Boys and Girls' works with devastating effect. The swagger of lead-single 'Hold On' is a fantastic introduction, and Howard's scream of 'I don't wanna wait' perfectly conveys youthful exuberance combined with a host of old styles, a track no doubt destined to soundtrack a whole summer's worth of festivals. Elsewhere, 'I Found You' recalls the power of Winehouse's 'Back to Black', but with added intensity. However, where this album falls down is in its overreliance on things of the past which contrasts sharply with its provocative and, more importantly, youthful title. 'Goin' to the Party' sounds like a dull post-sound-check jam as opposed to the teenage riot which it hints at, and certain parts of the album seem to drift by with a strange air of having been done better before. What Alabama Shakes have failed to do is update the tricks learnt whilst 'riffing out' to Zeppelin and co. with enough modern inventiveness and energy to make themselves seem important and vital. Ultimately, the problem is that Alabama Shakes with merely a rumble, whilst I wanted a racket.