Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Blackheart Society: Believe

Reviewing local music can make you sound like a broken record sometimes. We find ourselves using variations of the word "potential" to describe a lot of local bands, and we often wonder how useful it is to tell you that a band "could be good if (blank)," or that another band sounds like they "might be really great some day if they did such and such." Of course a mediocre band could be really good some day, and of course certain bands would be better if they made such and such improvements. That is obvious. But in order to be fair, we feel the need to differentiate between a band that just flat out sucks and one that isn't great right now but, um, has potential. We also recognize, however, that there is a great deal of variation in the level of quality amongst bands in the latter category, and those differences must be pointed out too if a record review is really going to be useful to anyone. Some of these bands seem to be headed in the right direction, while some are clearly headed in the wrong direction despite being good musicians or interesting songwriters or whatever. Others don't seem to know exactly where they are headed, which makes it hard for us to figure out where we stand.

Blackheart Society appears to be a band in that third category. Believe, their first release, has all the markings of a new band still trying to find its sound: genres are hopped, influences are clear, and the songwriting is subpar in spots. However, Blackheart Society is also a band that, um, could be really good at what they do once they figure out what it is they want to do. Instruments are played well, production choices are mature, a few of the songs are damn catchy, and the singing is quite good most of the time. In fact, Believe is actually pretty strong in many spots, especially for a first ep, even if it does falter in several respects.

There isn't anything too revolutionary about what Blackheart Society does. You'll hear The Cure, Neil Young, Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Stones and the Beatles pretty clearly upon first listen, and you'll probably be impressed with opener "Big Scar," which is surely the strongest track on the ep. "Big Scar" is a good example of the kind of song that Blackheart Society sounds most comfortable playing: concise, poppy, country influenced folk rock with a touch of 60's psychedelic. However, things come close to falling apart on songs like "Say You Want Me," where the band drags on for too long with just one idea, and on "Why Song of 89," which starts off with a dark new wave verse that turns into an unnecessary shout-along chorus that seems terribly out of place on the track. Aside from some cliche and sometimes cringeworthy lyrics, the main problem here seems to be that the band is hoping to be everything to everyone in their attempt to mix and match some of the more popular sounds of rock history. This creates an uneven vibe throughout the ep in which you don't know what you're going to hear next... but are afraid that you might not like it when you do.

But fear not, because its not all doom and gloom. Along with "Big Scar," "Whiskey Railroad" is a truly catchy and well written country pop song that will certainly standout during live performances, and "The Ballad of King George" showcases the band's ability to harmonize (although I can't tell who is actually singing) and branch out soundwise without moving too far from what they are good at. Salim Nourallah's production is also quite strong throughout, showing not only his talents but also the band's good taste in their approach to recording. And again, Ben Flemming is obviously a solid lead singer with good range, which immediately sets the band apart from many other locals, even though he still has some work to do as a lyricist.

Believe is truly a mixed bag, and while it falls short of being something that we would completely recommend, it also has enough strong moments to avoid being something that we would tell you to stay away from. In fact, we can't really figure out what to tell you aside from the obvious: Blackheart Society is new band, and they probably have enough talent to start becoming a good band. But Believe has its share of problems that make it unclear as to where this band is heading next.


Anonymous ntbb said...

I have some constructive criticism to offer, it might be a good idea for a band to be around for at least say, a year (?) before putting out your first full length. In this time you will have weeded through all your rough drafts of songs that don't fit and have a bigger palate to choose from. Rushing into your first album after only playing together for a couple of months WILL show. Taking your time to craft something you will listen to years down the road is always a good idea. Personally I liked where BHS were going pre-Nourrallah production. They're slick where they shouldn't be and theres an overabundance of jolting keyboard sounds that don't mesh with the tone of the album (the Cure reference you threw in there). Theres potential through time if time is taken.

6:59 AM  
Anonymous edd said...

I say 10.

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Carlin said...

Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate it as they're on my Callithump roster. Just to clear up a few things, the band has been together for 7-8 months and produced an EP, not a full length. I agree, they need to go through trial & error with their songs before doing a full length album. They're going to be playing out a lot over the next few months & summer, with a Midwest tour planned for the Fall. Come check them out live at their CD Release show on 4/7 at Darkside & let us know what you think of their live set. Cheers!

4:15 PM  
Anonymous CJMacPhie said...

Well to be honest guys, since we didn't get a band review.

Fist I would like to tell WSJR thanks for the review.

(It’s was sincere, and honest)

I guess to somewhat of degree I would like to also speak for the band as well. Blackheart Society has been together for little over year and a half. We have roughly 30 songs plus, covers as well. Just to make a small statement, this is a "EP". This is not a full length album.

If you did your homework? Wink-wink nudge-nudge!

So as you can see we put our most predominant track, and most different songs forward to attract labels, and show these people what we are capable of doing.

The Album is in the works! 

We also would like to express that we knew exactly the dimension, and sound we wanted to craft. As far as Salim goes, I think he is an awesome producer and was fun to work with. Ben, Josh and I felt completely comfortable. But before we went into the studio we had these ideas ready to be laid out. He just helped give us thumbs up to do it using his expertise!

But the great thing about this band really is that none of us want to sound like anyone else in the Dallas scene or be stuck in some one hit wonder genre. So I guess when people say they can’t classify our sound really is a huge compliment to us… (So I guess you could say we have accomplished what we set out to do).
We do encourage everyone to come see us live, and give us a true listen, we are more than happy to talk about our insights as a band and what really makes us tick.

Anyways take care everyone and hope to see you at the shows..

Once again WSJR thank you for taking the time to review us…

Robert Smith (The Cure)?

No seriously

Cameron/ Ben/ Josh
Blackheart Society

5:19 PM  
Blogger jonofdeath said...

I want more record reviews. You should have me write some. I write real good. Sometimes I actually complete

12:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CaMORON is such a dick face . glad he's out of the band. great advice stoned ranger

10:57 PM  

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