It’s time for some new music, John Turnbull checks out recent releases from bluesman Dave Hole, stoner-metalheads Black Stone Cherry, art-rocker Jack White and the oh-so-cool Thirty Seconds to Mars.
New Music by an Old Artist
Dave Hole: Goin’ Back Down
Somewhat like a fine wine, singer/guitarist Dave Hole keeps getting better with age. Born in 1948 in the UK, Dave and his family moved to Perth when he was four years old and young Dave became interested in music shortly after he first heard Muddy Waters. At the age of 12, Dave got his first guitar and taught himself to play by listening to Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Robert Johnson.
Famous for playing a weird overhand style of slide guitar interspersed with finger-picking, Dave began to build a following playing small local gigs, eventually forming the band Broken Habits in 1965. A few years later, he formed the Dave Hole Blues Band, various versions of which he played with for the next 30 years.
Often acclaimed as one of the best blues guitarists in Australia, Hole has the rare talent of making blues sound fresh and interesting; there is something timeless about Goin’ Back Down. At age 69, Dave decided to play most of the instruments himself, along with self-producing and engineering the album, ensuring it sounded exactly as he wanted it to.
If you’re a fan of blues, or indeed any of the many genres inspired by blues, I suggest giving Dave Hole a listen — odds are that he’s being doing his thing longer than many of us have been alive…
Standout tracks: Arrows in the Dark, Goin’ Back Down, Too Little Too Late
Sample lyric: “We’ve been apart for too long to ever love again…” (Arrows in the Dark)
Verdict: 8/10 — the best blues album I’ve heard in years.
New Album by a Model/Actor/Rockstar
Thirty Seconds to Mars: AMERICA
It will be near-impossible for Thirty Seconds to Mars to be remembered as anything other than Jared Leto’s band — the fact that it also has two other guys in it (brother Shannon Leto on drums and Tomo Milicevic on almost every other instrument) is neither here nor there.
This is not to say that 30STM isn’t a legitimate rock band. Their 2002 self-titled debut album established their sound: a slightly overwrought mix of metal, emo and pop, which the band then refined on their mega-selling 2005 follow up A Beautiful Lie. Lead by explosive singles Attack and The Kill (with a video directed by Leto), the album stayed in the U.S. charts for almost a full year.
In 2009, the band won a lawsuit filed by label EMI for breach of contract, then immediately re-signed with the label, presumably for a lot more money. Later that year, This is War was released — a grandiose epic evoking Muse and Queen, typified by worldwide hit Closer to the Edge. A couple of years later, the band did the inevitable MTV Unplugged gig and covered U2’s Where the Streets Have No Name, with Leto doing his best to out-Bono Bono.
With multiple “American Icon” covers, new album America starts out strong with lead single Walk on Water, but quickly devolves into Post Malone territory, with a frankly ludicrous amount of auto-tune. There are a few decent tracks across the album, but the production dates the album to late 2017 to early 2018 period, where constant auto-tuning was briefly acceptable in mainstream music.
Standout tracks: Walk on Water, Dangerous Night
Sample lyric: “The devil’s quick to love lost in pain.” (Rescue Me)
Verdict: 4/10 — would sound better with a human voice.
Album I Expect to Suck
Jack White: Boarding House Reach
I used to enjoy the music of Jack White, I really did. I first caught The White Stripes on a side stage at the Big Day Out in 2002 and immediately went out and bought their album White Blood Cells. Liking what I heard, I went out and bought their previous albums, their self-titled debut from 1999 and 2000s De Stijl. Their blend of stripped back blues, and down and dirty rock appealed to my sensibilities, so I bought every album the band released after that.
By the time The White Stripes broke up in 2011, White had already released albums with side projects The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, along with a bunch of other collaborations including Alicia Keys, Loretta Lynn and the long-denied vocal lead on Electric Six’s Danger: High Voltage. Jack White’s solo success seemed assured.
When White’s solo debut Blunderbuss was released in 2012, reactions were positive, but a little too much self-indulgence meant it didn’t really hold up to repeat listens. The same could be said for his 2014 follow-up Lazaretto, an interesting but uneven album that preceded a three-year hiatus from music.
As an album, Boarding House Reach seems deliberately sloppy, designed not to attract new fans but to reassure true believers (and perhaps White himself) that Jack White is one of the most important artists working today. I’m not convinced.
Standout tracks: Over and Over and Over, Connected by Love
Sample lyric: “You thrill and fill this heart of mine, with gladness like a soothing symphony.” (Humoresque)
Verdict: 6/10 — a slightly frustrating display of wasted potential.
Ch-check it Out
Black Stone Cherry: Family Tree
The good thing about a Black Stone Cherry album is that you pretty much know what you’re going to get. Not a group to reinvent their sound or persona from album to album, they are about as far from an artist like David Bowie as it is possible to get. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you hated previous BSC albums like Magic Mountain (2014) or Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (2011)m then you should probably check out one of the albums above.
Formed in Edmonton, Kentucky, in 2001, Black Stone Cherry love whiskey, weed and having a good time. They play Southern hard rock with a side of metal and they’re not adverse to the occasional power ballad. If you’re looking for biting political commentary or naval-gazing lyrics, you’re best to look elsewhere, my friend, because BSC are here to rock and they don’t give a f**k what you think about it.
Not surprisingly, Family Tree revolves around themes of heritage, as the band pay tribute to those who inspired them. You can hear the influence of acts like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cream and Led Zeppelin across the album, and the writing contributions of all band members mean that there’s more light and shade than you might expect.
If you’re looking for an album to put on at a party as things start to get out of control, Family Tree might be just what you’re looking for.
Standout tracks: Bad Habit, Southern Fried Friday Night, Burnin’
Sample lyric: “Just like a match to gasoline, she set the world on fire…” (Burnin’)
Verdict: 7/10 — no pretensions to art, just down and dirty rock.
Originally published in Independent Australia on 21 April 2018.