November 17, 2014 Blues Pills – Blues Pills (Album Review)
Three years ago, Former Radio Moscow members Zack Anderson (bass) and Cory Berry (drums) met singer Elin Larsson, and formed Blues Pills. The trio recorded a two song demo, and were signed by Crusher Records. After signing teenage guitarist Dorian Sorriaux, they recorded and released an EP entitled Bliss in 2012. They then were signed by Nuclear Blast and released the Devil Man EP in October of 2013. Two-thousand-fourteen saw the release of the band’s self-titled full length.
Blues Pills is the perfect amalgam of Blues, Psychedelic, Hard Rock, early Metal, and Stoner. All styles are represented, none are taken too far, and the blend results in a strong album from start to finish. Larsson’s howling, soulful voice layered on top of the hard rocking guitars will automatically make one think of Janis Joplin. There is simply no getting around it. Especially since the music she’s wailing over would not be out of place in the summer of 1968.
“High Class Woman” kicks off the album with a pounding bass line interjected with simple fuzzy guitar punches, all over a rolling tom heavy drumbeat that would make Ginger Baker proud. Larsson sings the verses with a calm, steady tone, and lets it all hang out for the chorus. A refined solo lets the listener know, early, that this band is more than power chords and cymbal crashes. The perfect start to the album.
“Ain’t No Change” has almost identical bass and drums as “High Class Woman”, but instead of power chords on top, Sorriaux opens the track with a delicate solo before Larsson jumps right in with her frenetic phrasing. “Jupiter” follows and it is pure heavy Psychedelic Rock. A funky guitar riff, echoed vocals, and spaced out lyrics like “children of time has come/the mother is crying/it won’t be long/’til she will leave us/leave us behind/I hope you will see/how this world should have been” harken back to the best to come out of San Francisco in the mid to late ’60s.
“Black Smoke” is Blue Pills’ idea of mellow; at least for the first minute. A light melody and Larsson singing in a feathery breathy style gives way to a flourish of crunchy guitars and heavy drumming, then back to mellow again. This is followed by a feedback laden solo, back to loud vocals, and finishing off with an even heavier outro on lead guitar. This is the strongest track on the album as it contains everything this band does well; tight, but not simple rhythms, incredible vocal range, and masterful guitar playing.
“River” and “No Hope For Me” are back to back mid-tempo rockers. They are placed perfectly after the first four tracks and their intense ferocity. In the era of the $0.99 hit single and short attention span, there is something to be said about the importance of sequencing on a full length.
“Devil Man” is a great showcase for Larsson’s pipes. It opens with her, unaccompanied, wailing from somewhere deep in her soul. Throughout, she leaves no doubt as to who is the star in this outfit. The guitar’s tone embodies the best of early ’70s rock, reminding the listener of Mountain’s Leslie West and Free’s Paul Kossoff.
“Gypsy” features deft slide guitar on top of the non-stop pounding on the snare drum. Again, Blue Pills shows that although their sound is certainly retro, it is utterly original, and they are clearly influenced by a myriad of styles. “Little Sun” closes out Blues Pills with a power ballad of the highest order; a subdued guitar lead, simple, steady drumming, mellow soloing and lyrics about a lost love. It is what so-called “hair bands” probably always thought they were churning out, but none of them ever had chops like this.
Blues Pills is simply a very impressive debut from a band that some may call imitators, but they have clearly taken their influences and made them their own. This is forty minutes of the best of what Rock and Roll has to offer. CrypticRock Gives Blues Pills 4 out of 5 stars.