Friday, 27 July 2012

The Black Widows @ The Old Brown Jug 25th July 2012

Review by Robert Egan
It’s hot tonight and the Jug is no exception. The room is muggy and close; so understandably most of the patrons are taking the opportunity to sit outside in the beer garden…The problem is that the Black Widows are about to play and they want a crowd, cue one of the best teasers that I have seen; the group decide to venture outside and perform an impromptu acoustic set. Scott the frontman is up onto one of the tables doing what every good frontman should be doing & entertaining, as the back line (or those that can rather) add their various elements. This has the effect of quenching a little of the audience’s thirst and entice them just enough that when after a couple of tracks the band announce that they are live upstairs, a fair proportion decide to go follow.
Their opening track ‘Post Golden gate blues’ is loud and jumpy with an encouraging tempo leading well into the second track ‘Arkansas Sound’ which has an appropriate country root and more than noticeable Punk stem. I like how the main vocals have been taken on by the lead guitarist too which adds to the variety. The third track ‘Take the Gun’ has a Dire Straits backline sound but with a clash style evident from the front instruments. The lead guitar gives a piercing accompaniment sounding not too dissimilar to The Cribs at times.
When the Black Widows appeared on the Stoke Sounds radio recently they chatted about how they like to convey a story with their lyrics rather than just create a song for its own sake and this is evident in most of their repertoire, as we are invited to listen to the tales being spoken. ‘What might have been’ is the fourth track and one of the songs that they played live on the radio show, so it is nice to be able to listen to it in all of its live and amped glory. By the time of ‘My World’, which has a gorgeous lead intro and an interesting drum pattern, I am slightly entranced and I want to listen to the story just as much as I enjoy listening to the song itself. The lyrics are important and the music accompanies them, the guitar is sparse and accentuates the vocals rather than drowning them out and gradually the music drives further and further taking you with it to a climactic crescendo. If you like The Doors and Jim Morrison’s ability to take you on a journey, then you will get an idea of what I mean.
‘Dead like you’re alive’ is about a girl sitting in a café and the seaside organ sound is evocative, as I visualise a picture, which I suppose is exactly the effect that the band wished. It is easy to hear a distinct Black Widows sound, but it’s hard to categorise them; country/blues with a hint of the late 60’s/early 70’s rock and punk for perhaps....?  Think the Velvet Underground without Reed or Nico, or the more modern Midlake, but on Prozac…Not that you should assume that this band are quiet or subtle in any way.
‘Turn and run’ has a guitar sound not dissimilar to Soundgarden’s, ‘Black hole sun’ in its uneasy effect and along with the bass notes, promotes a dystopian view as the title suggests. The music accentuates the vocals again and gradually the tempo increases taking us along for the ride, suddenly releasing the lead guitar with a lick you could race Formula 1 cars to. No sooner have I jotted those ideas down than they have just tripped the sound-o-meter for the venue and half of the instruments are cut off. This is just how good The Black Widows can’s not about keeping it low key, it’s about delivering a message with clarity and the minimum of distortion, whilst still possessing a volume enough to blow the venue’s trip switch.
Musically The Black Widows are tight and sound polished and professional; with a particular nod to the lead guitar, and Scott Francis’ vocals which have a slight transatlantic twang which I don’t normally go for, but it is slight and works well in this outfit. They seem possessed with a new spirit ready to take you on a shamanistic journey, and who knows, you may just emerge from the trance ready to heal your own tribe…

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