Begun as a pipeline for long-lost gems and out-of-print classics, Light in the Attic Records has begun to unearth new talent, too. The Black Angels’ drone-drenched psych-pop won countless converts last year, and The Blakes’ alternately fizzy and primal self-titled debut seems similarly primed for success.
The trio’s self-released album has been spritzed up and retooled, but there’s no containing the primal, giddy energy that crackles through it. Careening back and forth between desperate/lovesick and drunk/predatory, the band turns raw, conflicted desire into instantly addictive pop gems and scorching, swaggering rock. The band’s hearts and influences are on full display, but the results are wonderfully contagious.
For an ideal example, delve into the winningly bouncy, vaguely dirty “Don’t Bother Me.” “Don’t bother me / I’m caught up in your legs and I don’t want to get out,” singer/guitarist Garnet Keim pleads. “Stay in our own world / We just want to make out.” It’s innocent and raunchy, wide-eyed and tunnel-visioned, all at once.
‘Soak the Kinks in cheap booze, reignite the Stooges’ strut and add some modern Strokes of ambition, and you have the Blakes. The jagged and glassy-eyed “Two Times” (written in seven minutes) peaks with an enraptured chant of “Shake shake shake,” while the polished “Don’t Bother Me” elevates on a fluid glide aboard an invisible jet. The Blakes play gritty-yet-hazy rock music, a throwback to a more vagabond era.’
One of the pleasant surprises of the festival were the Blakes, a Seattle trio who recently signed to Light in the Attic Records. The group blended Dandy Warhols-ish swampy guitars, twitchy Strokes rhythms, and power-pop vocal harmonies, offering an energetic and unmannered romp through modern rock radio. With messy arrangements and a theatrical drummer fond of the both-sticks-in-the-air poses, their bluesy-cool rock brought a bit of a dirty nightclub vibe to the sunny (if already very windy) afternoon.
When a movie experiences a dream sequence, often what we’re supposed to assume is that it’s delirium or alcohol-induced and that those doing the dreaming are flying high, disjointed from the realest reality. A dream sequence that could take place while listening to The Blakes could go something like this. You’d have this river or a lake, see, something immense and deep to barrel over, to conquer, only this body of water is like no kind of water that’s ever been passed through. It’s mostly sweat, as if all of the marine life was exercising intensely for 20 of the 24 hours in the day, every day and accumulating the salty pools of the excretion. The rest of it would be somewhere around the highest recorded proof alcohol that can knock you on your ass by just smelling it.
There’s even a really good chance that the body of water that you’d be traveling through in this sequence would be headed for one of those huge plunges, a waterfall lined at its bottom with the deadliest and most jagged rocks imaginable. Taken one step further, the boat’s made out of beer as well, finding a way to stay floating on the sweat and liquor water that it’s really just a part of. The flying carpet-ish beer boat would be more like a yacht that the three giddy, high-voltage Blakes boys found in a junk yard – discarded and left for dead by the wealthy former owner when it got to be too small in the neighborhood’s eyes – and brought back to its seaworthy-ness. They patched a few holes the best they could and they renamed it the Atomic Leg-drop, the sign hanging from its side crookedly, the name written in shaky lettering with a small paintbrush sopped up with black.
The boat still looks like its seem better days, but the Blakes – brothers Snow and Garnet Keim and drummer Bob Husak – have battened down the hatches, cocked their hats backwards and down tight to brace themselves for going over the edge, a fate that they’re not the least bit afraid of experiencing. As a matter of fact, this particular dream features all three of them toasting the looming disaster, holding their half-drunk bottles of Bud heavy into the air, clinking them together and smiling, sure that it’s gonna be a good spill, but unafraid of knocking their heads and banging their legs a few times on hard objects on the fall. They seem excited and you can almost hear their hearts race. They almost want to jump ship and swim, to get to the falls quicker, just to see what it’s going to be like. They’ll take the tumble over the lip there, drifting to where the white water meets the blue sky, and we’ll be hearing their cheerful wails as they plummet to the bottom.
But before they hit, the dream sequence ends and it’s just like when the General Lee takes off over a ramp to clear an opening bridge and then the picture gets frozen while Waylon Jennings is briefing us on what kinds of trouble await the Duke brothers after the commercial break. Things look and feel great. There’s a satisfied and rosy look to all three of their faces – curiously, it’s the same look that someone three sheets to the wind has draped over their features. We’re left wondering if they ever black out, if they slam into those rocks and expire into a wet pulp. We’re just left hanging onto the jubilant, potentially violent ride – the same kind that the Seattle band takes you on with their dirty, fast and dangerous rock and roll. They’ve made Iggy Pop stop and take notice. They’ve gone about the process of writing songs that make bars seem like the greatest places on earth, where the lighting is dimmer than most places, where there used to be stale cigarette air that
you could spell things in with your fingers and where the happy hour extended well into the evening when the pool cues were appropriately warmed up and fistfights were next on the horizon.
According to all the local press in Seattle, the Blakes are soon to be the next Northwestern band to break into the big leagues and based on their Bumbershoot set on Monday, there does seem to be some merit to these claims. The trio is a brash, energetic blast of simple, dirty rock & roll, equal parts the Strokes and a downscale Urge Overkill, an impression somewhat buttressed by the group dressing up in vests for their big gig on the Sound Transit stage. Even when they get a little spacey or veer into the tight, neo-new wave disco that brought Modest Mouse success, there’s no doubt that the Blakes are a party band, the kind that will make a crack about Woodstock and bad pills just because they’re playing a festival. If they don’t quite have the star power that would propel them to the top of the charts — the dude at stage right bedecked in gigantic sunglasses and doing nothing more than playing a tambourine seemed more like a traditional rock star than any of the trio — they nevertheless on sheer raw musical terms have the stuff to break into the big leagues and after hearing them tear it up live, it’s hard not to want to hear a full album of theirs.