Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Powerpop Festival Pick/Review #2: The Black and Whites

The Black and Whites

The Black and Whites
Douchemaster Records

The brainchild of southern garage rock everyman Talbot Adams (the Darkest Hours, Preacher's Kids, Royal Pendletons, and more), The Black and Whites hail from the Oxford, MS. With the exceptions of Elvis, not too much else is known or said about the state best known by the faux motto: "Come feel better about your own state." Joking aside, The Black and Whites take the well known Ramones formula and make it pretty damn good. The songs are simple, the themes are even simpler. One thing only: girls! Not much info there, but these guys are great in a way that you just know it and it's too simple to explain. Talbot's voice is incredibly smooth, but on top of some great low fi guitar chords like "I Need a Good Girl" and it's classic, although it might be the first time I heard the word "nurture" in a song. Something that's quintessential to the simple, loud, fast, fun song formula is vocal harmonies. Without it, songs and bands themselves become less dimensional and boring, like many commercially motivated 'punk' bands that don't deserve mentioning. The Black and Whites acknowledge this and keep with the punk ethos that everyone joins in on memorable tracks like "Carlsbad." Besides, it's better to hear a real band instead of a bunch of people restricted to doing one thing only. What's even better is that they aren't particularly good, but a lot more fun. Another trait important to the house that Ramones built school is timing. If it's done right, it's like an infection. If one knows the right points to say "Yeah!" and "Alright!," the tunes catch on with a live crowd and the those involved have a better connection to the act. On record, that sense of timing is just cool.

Despite the music sounding loose and fun, the fact that countless bands out there take the same blueprint and usually don't come up with anything good shows that The Black and Whites know what they're doing. "Taca 69" impresses with Patrick Mckeage's super tight drumming and Johny Valiant's guitar playing that's fast, loud, and short, but oooh, the vocal harmonies really make the song. There's even a nod to Fear on "(Oh) My Head" that throws you for a loop with it's hardcore beat. Pretty cool. "Don't Wanna Go" is another departure with vintage R & B that's slower but surprisingly just as memorable. As if it can't get any better, "Just Don't Care" is a great Southern blues-boogie rock 'n' roll drinking song that would have any crowd swingin' their bottles in the air, singin' along. As a debut,The Black and Whites have made a great one that combines the fast, loud and fun early punk approach, but comes across as a great debut since they sound like they know what they're doing. The occasional forays into other musical territories are equally exciting, but also hints at The Black and Whites being a band with a lot more to say. Let's hope that's the case.

The Black and Whites are playing The Wild Weekend Powerpop Festival at The Mohawk in Austin, Texas on August 29th. More dates are likely to follow.

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