Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls

Finally Alabama Shakes, one of the best new bands around, have released their debut LP Boys & Girls via Rough Trade in the UK today.

Their previously released single Hold On has been all over the radio, just teasing us with how brilliant this band was always going to be and now, at long last, we have a 12 track long player which has been eagerly anticipated by absolutely everyone for absolutely ages. The anticipation for this record has been beyond fever pitch and this band have proved to the world, his wife and their dog that they are worthy.

A fair few of the tracks that appear on the album have been available for free online streaming on Hype Machine etc. for a while and a two-track live EP featuring performances of Be Mine and You Ain’t Alone, never mind the fact that the band have be playing scores of live shows snowballing their way to rave reviews from just about everybody. They’re being hailed as ‘a major new rock and roll band’, with influences like David Bowie, Black Sabbath and each other they’ve created a sound that’s definitely their own and which has already got the world’s music media primed and ready to fall at their feet. They have been described as a kind of soul revival act, whether this comparison is true or not it is understandable. There are several moments on this record where the bawling truthfulness of it all reminds me of Big Brother and the Holding Company. When you hear Brittany Howard’s vocals forcing their way out of her like a hurricane against the crashing of the drums and some proper rock & roll riffs, the rock-&-roll-&-soul of Big Brother and the Holding Company is definitely there, never mind the Janis/Brittany similarities, it just sounds incredible. This is a record you could almost dig your nails into.

This album is a thunderstorm of youth and pain, but a kind of pain that seems to be easing slightly, now it’s all over and they’re telling a story, it’s confessional. There’s a track called Heartbreaker in which a piano gently opens the song before Howard’s vioce builds up and up and collides with the drums, begging to know how this guy broke her heart. Goin to the Party is a little tale of going out and getting trashed “there’s going to be dancing and there’s going to be a fight”. Be Mine is a hopeful declaration of love really, opening with a riff that flicks up a bit making it seem like it could all work out, ending in a hooting repetition of “be my baby”, I don’t know if it was intentional but the similarities with Janis Joplin here are prettymuch undeniable with the chaos spinning out towards the end of the track ending in an exhausted heap, and it’s brilliant.

The band got described as ‘a slice of the real’ when they sent their first track to the Aquarium Drunkard blog which really set the fireball rolling for them, and they really are real, it’s pure rock and roll, Heavy Chevy, the closing track, providing one of the best examples of this, the whole album winding it’s way towards a pretty happy ending “you and me forever baby you and me together baby, I said I love you baby you know I really do”, she still seems unsure if he loves her back but really, fuck it, the guitars run away with the vocals and will probably live happily ever after.

This band is definitely one to be seen live, smashing SXSW to pieces and then later receiving a rave review from the New York Times, so it’s a good job they’re coming to Europe, already having sold out a couple of upcoming shows in the UK. Go, dance, scream along, I’m planning to.

This album has already made my week and it’s only 10am on a Monday morning. The Guardian and NPR both have the record available for streaming in it’s entirety if you fancy a little try before you buy, but really just BUY IT, it’s practically as good as sex.

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