If you were posed the following question how would you answer? You’ve been asked to go out to see some local new bands and you’ve got two choices. When you ask who do they sound like you’re told one of them sounds like Blink-182 and the other one sounds like the New York Dolls cross dressing with the Dead Boys. Which band would you go see?
If you don’t even know who the New York Dolls or the Dead Boys are I suggest you go shopping at your local Gap for the duration of this review. If you said there is no choice in the question you’re right. Only a pubescent acne machine would even harbor thoughts of wasting an hour or more of a lifespan to see some group aping Blink-182. Hell, life’s probably too precious to waste on a group worshipping at the altar of Stiv Bators and Johnny Thunders too, but unless you’re after some grand epistemological journey you might as well indulge yourself and have some fun being terminally pissed off.
That’s where Billy Hopeless and the glitter glam and black mascara leather of The Black Halos come into the picture.
The Black Halos are back after a brief hiatus that saw two members replaced and they are as glammed out and punked up as ever. They have a new disc out titled Alive Without Control produced by expert volume knob twister Jack Endino who has managed to escape the long shadow of the Seattle grunge rock he is most famous for producing.
This album is, and I hesitate to think it, almost too loud. Which means it takes a few listens to let the subtleties seep in. OK I’m bullshitting you since this is about the most straight ahead punk raucous beer party rock I’ve heard in a long time, but it did take a few plays before I could decipher Billy Hopeless’s whisky soaked vocals. Maybe I’m just a little slow at interpreting Canadian, eh. The Black Halos definitely hold onto their title as the best Vancouver export on Alive Without Control.
“Three Sheets To The Wind” explodes from the speakers and sets the tone for the anthemic odes to follow as they announce that they “don’t know a single hymn.” They borrow a guitar intro from Dramarama for “Last Call At The Toothless Saloon” before leading us into a rousing chorus that sidesteps Stiv Bators and heads for Dee Dee Ramone vocal territory. “Darkest Corners” we’re told are the only places that The Black Halos are at home and that’s good to know since you need to go see them play live to fully appreciate their Dolls/Dead Boys homage transcending rock and roll.
Other choice nuggets: “Tight” which speeds along with hydrochloric intensity, the anti-love song “Broken”, and a cover of Tom Petty’s “I Need To Know” which demonstrates what a sturdy songwriter Petty is as the song is a fitting end for an album’s worth of songs where the politics are personal alienation.
Alive Without Control is available through Liquor And Poker Music. If you’re tired of being an American idiot, then grab yourself a couple of toofers (a toofer is a case of beer in Canadian speak), and get this album for an evening of drunken rock and roll.
I notice the people who had never heard of the New York Dolls or the Dead Boys have returned from the Gap so I guess this review is through. But thanks to The Black Halos I’m sure there will be fewer customers for them the next time around.