If you’ve either followed this site, or for some unknown reason followed my mad ramblings, you’ll be well aware of the massive regard I hold for Blues Pills, having previously given glowing reviews for their EPs ‘Devil Man’ and ‘Live at Rockpalast’, both of which received whopping great nines out of ten. Add into the mix their enormous live ability, when I happened to catch them supporting Orchid in 2013, and it’s little wonder that long before the editor passed me the download to review I had pre-ordered the special edition CD/DVD package (most writers don’t do this for the freebies folks, we do it for the joy). However, with such a build-up, I was well aware that I was in danger of a massive disappointment if the band failed to deliver with their first full length; so what is the verdict? Read on.
‘Blues Pills’ opens as it carries on throughout; with pure class. A stripped back bass line starts ‘High Class Woman’, the tune building with the addition of drums and classic guitar stabs before being joined by the superlative vocals of Elin Larrson, a performer who truly deserves the praise she’s been given with comparisons to the like of the legendary Janis Joplin. Indeed, the band as a whole owes a debt of gratitude to the formative era of hard rock in the late sixties and early seventies, ‘Ain’t No Change’ opening with the sort of beat that Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac took from classic American Blues and evolved with rock sensibilities and amplification. Indeed, for style and intensity Fleetwood Mac is a good yardstick by which to compare them: not the laid back and bloated stadium rock of the years following ‘Rumours’ but the early, vital sound that played to the pre-materialistic kaftan clad flower children.
With ‘Jupiter’ the band get their funk on, and the guitar of wunderkind axe-man Dorian Sorriaux gets a heavy dose of the wah-wah pedal whilst the relentless bass and drums of Cory Berry and Zack Anderson prove they are not to be overlooked, refusing to simply be background support and adding to the sheer class of the track. ‘Black Smoke’ follows, starting off like a laid back “California Sound” ballad, the dreamy verses finely contrasted by the hard rock riffing of the choruses, the same ability to flawlessly mix gentle pastoral sounds with Hendrix like riffing being even more apparent in the following track ‘River’.
Each of the ten tracks on this album simply reek of class, and each delivers with the seemingly effortless ease that only comes with real ability and hard work, showcasing the skills of the musicians rather than the expertise of the engineer and the processing power of their computer. Whilst the likes of ‘Devil Man’ may be more polished and layered then it is on the original eponymous EP, complete with an evolved arrangement, the power of the four players shines through, and just screams to be played loud and live.
Whilst it is apparent from their sound, style, and even their psychedelic album cover that ‘Blues Pills’ owes a debt of gratitude to the classic music of Free, Led Zeppelin and Cream, the band doesn’t simply recycle old sounds, but rather they pay respectful homage, adding their own frighteningly youthful exuberance and fiercely capable musicianship into the mix. With a heavy touring schedule and the power of this album, Blues Pills are likely to be leaving their days of support slots in small clubs far behind them, and deservedly so.