‘Boys & Girls’ (Rough Trade)
It’s hard not to be sceptical of Alabama Shakes. Unfashionable-sounding music being done by an unfashionable-looking band, their gigs are – by all accounts – incendiary. Yet, they routinely cover T. Rex as an encore. So where does this leave us? Looking at a novelty act, or the best pub band in the universe?
If you weren’t being judicious, you might dismiss ‘Boys And Girls’ without hearing a single note, assuming you had a pretty good idea of the southern-fried rock served within. To a large extent, those instincts would be realised. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing here to enjoy. It’s crusty from the first drum strikes of ‘Hold On’, but Brittany Howard’s gutty vocals constantly fi nd interesting ways to tweak a melody, to delay satisfaction until you’ve earned it. ‘I Found You’ has the intensity of The Walkmen at their most earnest, and ‘You Ain’t Alone’ harnesses an attractive Al Green vibrato – both comparatively experimental when you consider the popular competition.
But as an album? Well, it’s enough to hold the interest, although we’d prefer Alabama Shakes to capitalise on their more esoteric elements and cut out the cliches…