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.
Blag’ard – Bobcat
I have to admit something. In the stack of CDs Stephen gave me to review over the last several weeks, I put Bobcat by Blag’ard toward the bottom of the stack. Why? Because the girl in the cat-ish costume on the front and back gave me the heebie-jeebies.
That being said, I finally gave the disc a spin and not just so that I could remove the creepy cat-girl from my desk. It’s a good release, though ultimately not particularly understanding.
Blag’ard is a duo made up of Joe Taylor on guitar and Adam Brinson on drums. Perhaps I’m biased because I started out playing bass, but I’ve always found guitar/drum duos to be precarious and hard to pull off. The White Stripes and The Black Keys manage it, but without that low-end provided by the bass, a guitar/drum duo can often feel very incomplete. Unfortunately, Blag’ard falls victim to that in several places.
Luckily, Taylor’s guitar work is compelling enough the majority of the time to propel the music and make it sound more complete. He hits the mark much better on some songs than he does on others. In the second and third tracks, “Shame” and “REM Show,” Taylor plays the higher frets frequently, and the two songs even have similar riffs. With “Shame” clocking in at nearly five minutes and “REM Show” at just shy of three minutes, it makes for a painfully exhausting series of guitar wailing and high vocals.
From there, though, the balance is found again and persists well throughout the album. But, from here Blag’ard falls victim to a common problem: the songs all start to blend together. Even after repeat listens, there isn’t a single song that really stood out from the others. It becomes hard to tell where one song ends and another begins and ultimately it’s hard to really get into the album.
There’s some strong musicianship here, but the songwriting needs a little less monotony.
Album Name: Blank Faced Clocks
Best Element: Rawness of the music
Genre: Indie Rock
Label: Pig Zen’s Pace
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Joe Taylor is the mastermind behind Blag’ard, which is essentially a one-piece band. However, on Blank Faced Clocks he is assisted by the drumming skills and backing vocals of Bill Buckley. The album was recorded in North Carolina and put out by Joe’s own label, Pig Zen’s Pace.
The rawness is ever-present throughout the 5-song EP, yet it doesn’t hamper the quality or the opinion of the album. In fact, it may even be asset, setting Blag’ard apart from the pack of singer/songwriters. The beginning track “Monk” is a well spliced, spacey piece which gives ample time to reflect on the ambient sounds. The second track “Losty” is a more straight-forward rock song, showing that he can cut to the chase and just rock out. The middle piece is a great number entitled “Peaches in Cream” showing a stranger, more off-key side to the tunes, driving hard to the point that variation is a key factor on this album. “Friends Like You” is a great song, likely my favorite on the album. It showcases some nice guitar work with what is my favorite vocal line on the album when he begs the question, “With friends like you/ who needs strangers?” The final song, “Jenny G,” is a nice closing to the album, though pegging love-lost stereo-types.
All in all, I was pleased with this album but not blown away. The potential of Joe Taylor is undeniable: the combination of his skillful guitar playing, song writing and unique vocal work are all strong assets. Hopefully Blank Faced Clocks will have enough momentum to fuel his musical passion into the horizon.