CD Review – July Talk
July Talk’s self-titled album begins in a really frustrating way, with the song The Garden, which is an upbeat blues rock song. It’s catchy, upbeat, and a seemingly enjoyable tune, but frankly, blues rock just needs to die. I understand its historical necessity to modern music, but seriously, we need to stop writing songs around the 12 bar blues progression. I’d argue that playing blues rock in 2012 is far more banal than anything on Z99. The only difference is stylistic preferences. Both are incredibly formulaic – even an improvised guitar solo in a blues rock song can be more or less predicted as to where it’s going to go. It’s a cop out. Anyone can write an infinite amount of songs around this structure. Any blues lick on this album has been played countless times before by countless different artists, and the same is true for blues rock in general.
This album’s actually pretty alright when it stays away from heavily leaning on the band’s blues influences. Its fine to be influenced by the blues, but when “influence” becomes doing the same thing that’s been done since the early part of the twentieth century, your music becomes expectedly boring.
Another qualm with the album is Peter Dreimanis’ voice at times. We get it. You drink whiskey. You probably smoke. You’re a big, burly dude. But, I’m calling bullshit that you sing in the shower like that. Sometimes it sounds like he’s about to go into a really awesome scream, and I’m sure his voice would actually work well with something like that, but he never quite goes all the way. For example, if he really pushed his voice – it’s not like singing as he does is doing his vocal chords any favours anyways – and went up the octave at the end of Guns + Ammunition, the song would benefit greater than merely repeating the vocal melody – especially since the melody is simply quarter notes that don’t change pitch.
The album’s highpoint comes with the fifth song, Someone; it’s much more driving and engaging than any of the tracks previous to it, and July Talk does improve after this song, but none quite match the energy of Someone. With that said though, the album’s closing track, I’ve Rationed Well, is probably the best song on this album. This is how you utilize a scratchy male voice and indulge a blues influence without being boring. Dreimanis clearly has a vocal style that is best suited to low registers, so play to those strengths; the notes that he sings in that song are frighteningly low, and it’s pretty haunting.
July Talk does a few interesting things, but there are far more boring songs than really interesting ones. It finishes in a nice way, but a solid closing song and a few in the middle can’t prop up July Talk from the rest of the mediocrity that brings this album down.