Karl Blau, Zebra

Karl Blau, Zebra

CD Reviews: New Music From the Blakes and Karl Blau

  • Tuesday, October 6, 2009 12:00am
  • Music

The Blakes

Souvenir (We Are OK Records)

There’s a simple message behind Souvenir, and it is this: Fathers, keep your daughters away from the Blakes.

The Blakes want to have all sorts of naughty fun with daddy’s little girl. The local threesome—guitarist Garnet Keim, his brother Snow on bass, and drummer Bob Husak—want to climb inside her walls (“Ivory Walls”), bite her skin (“Dog of Sin”), and call her juicyfruit (“Charmed”) while they’re at it. Most of Souvenir‘s 16 tracks are punctuated with libido-lighting lyrics ignited by Garnet’s gravelly growls or Snow’s smooth, made-for-Britpop voice (the pair share vocal duties throughout the record).

The Blakes play down-and-dirty rock and roll with a Stones-meets-the-Strokes sound. Souvenir doesn’t stray far from the dirty garage style of the band’s self-titled debut, which is too bad because the poppy “Magic” is a highlight.

What plagues Souvenir is that its sex-on-fire lyrics often come across as campy and clichéd. Fortunately, most of the songs are driven by jangly guitars and pounding drums that make you want to rock out instead of crack up.

Like any good romp in the sack, when you’re done with Souvenir, it leaves you simultaneously feeling a little spent and wanting to have another go. The problem is, like most good sex, that if you go back for seconds too soon it can be difficult to capture the magic from the first time. That’s not to say Souvenir doesn’t merit repeated listens—you may just want to pace yourself, that’s all. TRAVIS HAY

Karl Blau

Zebra (K Records)

Karl Blau’s Zebra might as well have been called Chameleon, considering its ability to morph from genre to genre depending on mood. From one song to the next, you’ll hear dry folk, acid jazz, bedroom shoegaze, lo-fi pop, and all types of me-against-the-world solo production that falls in line with Blau’s history as a Northwest analog guru. According to Blau, an Anacortes native, Zebra was created in homage to African music. Really? You’re going to have to dig deep to hear that in the first few listens. But subtly, it emerges, whispering in the blues harmonica of “All Over Town,” which sounds like music for hopping a freight train, or in the ’70s blaxploitation vibe of “Waiting for the Wind,” which Melvin van Peebles might borrow at any minute. Aside from that, the disc has a more distinctly blustery Northwest feel than anything. On “Free the Bird,” Blau’s vocal style sounds eerily similar to Kurt Cobain’s, and “Welcome in NW” is all stoner rock. Zebra‘s strongest moments come when Blau’s quirks as a producer and singer/songwriter are so free-form that the singular nature of the music can be appreciated. But don’t expect to be clubbed over the head with the music of the Serengeti. JONATHAN CUNNINGHAM

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