Blues Pills

Lady In Gold

Written by: AP on 29/11/2016 23:18:31

It was an entrance that sent ripples across the burgeoning heritage rock pool, Blues Pills staged three years ago with their dazzling “Devil Man” EP. Armed with Elin Larsson’s astonishing voice as well as a litany of ’70s rock’n’roll riffs, psychedelic jams and blues ridden balladry, Nuclear Blast was right to consider the Örebro, Sweden-based, multinational ensemble a hot prospect, and although it did not quite live up to the expectations, the band’s eponymous début album did little to calm the waters. Here was an artist capable of restoring hippie-rock to its heyday at last.

In retrospect however, the heaps of praise that landed almost exclusively on Larsson arrived with a calamitous subtext — indeed, it was pointed out in many a review, including my own; namely that the appeal of Blues Pills was too dependent on her Aretha Franklin-esque gift of soul singing. On their sophomore outing, “Lady in Gold”, that worry transforms into reality, as for reasons inexplicable, she has been awarded full presidency over the music, leaving the project to now resemble Elin Larsson & The Blues Pills more than the symbiotic psych-blues constellation that wooed us all on those past releases. With the right amount of cynicism, you could thus take the album’s title to underline the designs that have been set in motion regarding the ‘Pills’ future. But even if the notion seems too farfetched, it is hard to argue against the fact that guitarist Dorian Sorriaux, bassist Zach Anderson and new drummer André Kvarnström have been reduced to a supporting caste.

The three gentlemen’s skill of musicianship is no longer applied in drawn-out jam séances, so you really have to listen in to unearth some of the cooler, wah-wah drenched guitar riffs and hypnotic bass licks on offer. Knowing that, in liaison with Larsson’s smoky singing, the trio excels at penning those inspired, wrenching slow-burners à la “No Hope Left for Me”, “Black Smoke” and “Dig in” that earned deserving comparisons to Graveyard’s balladry, the disappointment hits hard. The closest Blues Pills come to replicating such majesty on “Lady in Gold” is the fifth track “Gone So Long”, which at first resembles the soulful pop of Adele before soaring into a chilling, emotive crescendo halfway; and to some extent also the third song, “Burned Out”, albeit in a lighter tone overseen by swirls of uplift from Larsson’s organ and Sorriaux’s guitar. Elsewhere, the moody touches exist in brief segments only, straddling between balladry and rock’n’roll.

That is not to say that the ‘Pills should just focus on the slower, more affected pieces, however. After all, busting out a catchy, Graveyard-y ‘70s rock’n’rolla’ was always an integral part of the band’s music. But the tracks that do mimic the swagger of a “High Class Woman” or an “Ain’t No Change” are simply not up to the standard of previous efforts in terms of lasting value. Between the catchiest of the bunch, “Little Boy Preacher”, and the confused mishmash of ‘Sabbath and drum rolls that seem constantly to be ramping up, but never releasing the tension that is “Elements and Things”, most of what is on offer comes across as hastily assembled and hackneyed rock’n’rollers without a purpose. The prosaic attempt of “Won’t Go Back” to flash some attitude with a sort of empowering drive plus lyricism about ‘taking control’ and leaving an abusive relationship, for instance, is toe curling — not memorable.

Quick to rise, quick to fall; that the idiom penned by Chuck Ragan for Hot Water Music’s song “Safety” ringing in my psyche should be the most haunting aspect of listening to “Lady in Gold” is quite telling of the shortcomings that plague the record. Its banishment of the instrument section to the background and the ensuing anonymity of the brunt of the material (sans the singing) sets a dangerous precedent for an eventual third album. For now, the band should be grateful for its possessing such a formidable asset in Miss Larsson, but in order to restore the course toward stardom mapped by those earlier works, they need first to restore the balance that made them such dynamic listening experiences.


Download: Little Boy Preacher, Burned Out, Gone So Long
For the fans of: Blood Ceremony, Spiders, The Vintage Caravan
Listen: Facebook

Release date 05.08.2016
Nuclear Blast

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