Review: Black Pistol Fire – ‘Look Alive’

Nashville might be referred to as “Music City”, but Austin, Texas goes one better as it’s known as the “Live Music Capital of the World” due to the high volume of venues hosting live music performances in the city. Obviously, the pandemic put the brakes on that claim, but you get the picture. The perfect place for Canadian duo Black Pistol Fire to relocate to then as the partnership of vocalist/guitarist Kevin McKeown and drummer/bass synth player Eric Owen carry with them quite a reputation as a fiery live act. The pair must be really kicking up their heels at the minute, but until live music resumes, the duo has delivered their latest album full to the brim with diverse music: ‘Look Alive’.

A hint of Arctic Monkeys here; a touch of The White Stripes there; all wrapped up with a gnarly, fuzzy garage-rock sound, and lashings of freaky-ass synth (especially on ‘Level’ where it reaches John Carpenter proportions at the end). Unlike a lot of modern bands today with crossover appeal, Black Pistol Fire have fire in their bellies and haven’t forgotten about the importance of a killer guitar sound. Kevin McKeown delivers some fantastic guitar tones (‘Always On My Mind’ is particularly memorable), but without needing to go down the traditional route of “insert lengthy guitar solo here”. The aforementioned ‘Always On My Mind’ is a total romp of a track, good fun, and with a knockout performance from Eric Owen behind the kit.

McKeown has a strong vocal range that remains mostly in the realms of higher pitches. More head Monkey Alex Turner, or Passenger even, and less Geddy Lee. Opening (and title) track ‘Look Alive’ floats some familiarity with Turner’s vocals on the likes of ‘Arabella’ and ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?. A soft and airy introduction to the album before Owen is let loose on the stomping, head-bobbing ‘Pick Your Poison’. Later on, he reprises the role of chief-stomper on ‘Black Halo’, which had it been performed by acts such as The Black Keys or The White Stripes, then it would be referred to as the “multi-million selling ‘Black Halo’”. Such a great song this one, from the opening Duane Eddy-like guitar twang, to the wailing feedback and short synth bursts at the end. A song that once it starts, the listener has no idea in the direction that it’s going to take.

‘Black Halo’ is part of a strong mid-album section that begins with mysterious, almost-rapping vocals on ‘Wildfire’; leads into the slow-burning, bluesier ‘Hope In Hell’ which contains the timely line “…fuck you and the horse you rode in on…”; ‘Black Halo’ slots in nicely before the finger-clicking, rootsy ‘Temper Temper’ brings an eclectic-as-hell 14 minutes to an end.

Although 2021 has continued in the same style of shit-show that was 2020, the music on offer during the first five weeks or so has been top-notch. ‘Look Alive’ being another album to help ease the pain and misery of the current state of the world.

Available now:

Check out our interview with Eric Owen here.

Review – Dave

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