There’ s nothing “indie” about Blag’ard‘s gritty, two-man garage rock other than the band’s unsigned (and therefore “independent”) status. These ten songs don’t spend time on atmospherics, mood or arrangements; they get straight to the rock’n’roll. This aesthetic gives the best songs on Mach II an urgency that is rare in any sort of rock’n’roll, much less the bare-bones two-man variety.
Indie-rock vet Joe Taylor (ex-Capsize 7) holds down the guitars and vocals, while newcomer Adam Brinson cranks out the drumming in this duo. The majority of the urgency comes from Taylor’s guitar work. Taylor rarely leaves a moment without guitar in it; while the lines can be angular at times, they never pause. By never letting up, Taylor covers the roles of bassist, rhythm guitarist and lead guitarist. His buzzing guitar sound is reminiscent of The White Stripes’ early guitar work, as the guitar work is definitely distorted but not so much so that you can’t hear what’s going on.
Brinson’s drumming fills out the sound in a very Meg White-esque way, contributing simple but appropriate drumming. Brinson does exercise more chops than White, but it’s a similar style. Brinson’s not showing off his drum skills, and it fits the sound well. He shows some syncopated work on “Snowball” and makes a solid drum line out of a repeated fill on “Harmony,” but most of the tunes use high hat, snare and kick drum in a consistent and insistent manner to match the propulsive qualities of Taylor’s songwriting.
When Taylor gets comfortably vocally in a song, it becomes a highlight. The lighter feel of “Snowball” allows Taylor to sing instead of snarling, and the melody one of the more memorable. Album standout is “RCO,” which scales back the intensity a bit to feature a sinister vibe, eerie backup vocals and a haunting chorus. “Life in Reverse” is the best of the straight-up rock tracks that they have here, as Taylor turns in a good vocal performance. The tight opening riff in “Ophelia” is also worth noting, as it steals the show from the rest of the song (even the whistling!).
The garage-rock of Mach II is messy, urgent, insistent, imperfect, and all rock. There’s no question as to what Blag’ard set out to do with this release, and they knock it out of the ballpark. If you like gritty, raw, untainted rock’n’roll straight outta the garage/Detroit, then Blag’ard is in your corner.