While other bands are setting trends and pushing boundaries, Alabama Shakes are celebrating why the boundaries are there at all, with solid, timeless song writing. If it ain’t broke, dance to it.
Hotly tipped and highly anticipated, the bar is set somewhere in the stratosphere for Alabama Shakes. Complete with a heap of celebrity fans, branded the ‘ones to watch in 2012’ and the must-see band at this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. Their reputation doesn’t just precede them; it’s a bus ride and a short walk ahead. Debut album Boys and Girls is Alabama Shake’s first chance to prove their worth.
Beginning with lead single and the trigger to all the excitement, Hold On; a song apparently conceived by on-stage improv, still has that same effortless cool. Brittany Howard’s vocals pack a powerful punch, she howls; “must be someone up above, saying come on girl, you’ve got to get back up” with such feeling you’d be scared to sit down.
Boys and Girls pays homage to gospel and Motown, but the band’s rock influences can be heard in the buzz of guitars and drum beats that rip through an otherwise inoffensive song. I Found You is coated in tambourine shakes and waves of low bass. Sounds then brim over with Howard’s snarling, rousing cries. ‘Once more with feeling’ is a phrase Howard doesn’t need to know, pushing every word to the rooftops.
The album darts from earthy and stirring to growling and unpolished, all deep rooted in soul. Hang Loose harps back to their Alabama home with a Deep South vibe and their bluesy blend of country. On title track; Boys and Girls; Howard’s soft vented frustration of gender and friendship is littered with feedback hums, reverb and crackles that make for a warm and intimate album.
Tweaking what could be considered pastiche; Boys and Girls is the trigger for soul revival. This time it’s grittier, rougher and tougher. Motown with mo’ bite. With youth on their side and age in their sound, Alabama Shakes embody the trend for vintage sounds and the science of our new obsession; Retromania. While other bands are setting trends and pushing boundaries, Alabama Shakes are celebrating why the boundaries are there at all, with solid, timeless song writing. If it ain’t broke, dance to it.