Black Foxxes

Whatever Let's You Cope

Written by: TL on 25/09/2016 12:50:24

The Exeter trio Black Foxxes has been picking up numerous mentions in the music press recently, leading up to their debut album "Whatever Let's You Cope", which came out in mid-August. The band self-labels as 'Rock / Depression-Pop' on Facebook, which is apparently another way of saying that they write highly emotional rock music with notes of grunge nostalgia. And it's evident pretty much immediately on their record that there's something to the praise, firstly from the way the organic sounding guitar notes fill out your headphones with grit and warmth, and secondly from the vocals of singer/guitarist Mark Holley, ranging from incredibly frail to more red hot and searing than a rusty branding iron.

A band like Scotland's oft-overlooked The Xcerts comes to mind for comparison, as does some of the overt vulnerability that Placebo threw around in their earlier days, and also some of the potential for explosive catharsis that transformed Brand New on their latter two records. But as mentioned, there are notes of the 90's grunge and alt-rock lingering in the corners, giving Black Foxxes their own nuance, and likely also gratifying fans of Nirvana or Pixies.

The record opens with two tracks showcasing what the group has to offer, "I'm Not Well" and "Husk", and of the two, the carefully slow-burning "I'm Not Well", is the more symptomatic of where the band is strongest at the moment. Here the tempo crawls patiently forward and there's plenty of space to appreciate both the resonance of the electric guitar and the balancing-on-a-cliff's-edge vocals of Holley. Further album highlights like the title track and "River" only elaborate this script, and particularly the former of the two seizes your attention like a tightrope walker without safety wires. "Husk", on the other hand, is a prime example of the band flipping the recipe and delivering a tight, up-tempo banger, still encompassing the same frailty and frustration as the slower songs, but heading more towards expunging it in a driving, powerful manner, instead of allowing it to build up so much over time.

Regrettably, while there are more examples of Black Foxxes hitting the mark with their slow songs, "Husk" is pretty lonesome as a convincing example of their capacity for more energetic rockers. And starting with "Maple Summer" at track six, the album heads into a second half that consistently feels a degree less engaging than the first half. The band preserves the atmospheric qualities that hold up the early tracks, but the progressions of the tracks down here simply aren't quite as mesmerizing, which makes you start to look around for the striking ideas or movements, while Holley's vocal acrobatics do admittedly start to lose their novelty somewhat, unable to carry the day on their own.

With a strong identity to their sound, though, and with at least half an album's worth of remarkable songs, Black Foxxes are clearly off to a start worth making note of. If they can improve on songwriting consistency and perhaps expand on the musical universe around the basic qualities that are so clearly evident already, they're a group to look out for in the future for absolute certain.

Download: I'm Not Well, Husk, Whatever Let's You Cope, River
For The Fans Of: The Xcerts, (older) Placebo, (newer) Brand New, Manchester Orchestra

Release date 19.08.2016
Search & Destroy / Spinefarm / Universal Music

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