Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Black Power

Remember how several years ago there were a bunch of "the" bands taking the music world by storm?  There was The Strokes, The Hives, The Vines, The Libertines, The Music, The Stills, The Thrills, The Faint and. . .well, you get the idea. I was reminded of that this morning as I loaded music on to my iPod before leaving for my commute to work. As I scrolled through the list of artists I noticed several band names began with the word "black" and all of them have released albums in the last year. And most of those releases are quite good.

While I can't vouch for all of them (people keep telling me Black Dice is great, but I've always found their output mostly cacophonous drivel), there are several gems among the black bunch. Perhaps the best is Wizard of Ahhhs, the debut EP from Jacksonville's Black Kids. Exhibiting an enthusiasm for mish-mashing different styles to create pop hooks, the quintet frequently inspires comparisons to England's The Go! Team. While certainly valid, I would argue Black Kids sound a bit more focused than The Go! Team.

Another intriguing release is the fifth album from Atlanta garage/blues punk band Black Lips, Good Bad Not Evil. While they have always had a reputation for being wild and noisy, Black Lips scales back the raucousness just enough to endear themselves to a wider audience and dabble in brief flashes of pop melodies. Couple that with their legendary stage antics (which resulted in banishment from several Atlanta-area venues) and suddenly their appearance at the Coachella Music Festival becomes a must-see event.

Speaking of Coachella, Black Lips and Black Kids will be joined by the excellent Canadian quintet Black Mountain. While I was a huge fan of their self-titled debut record, I am already beginning to think the follow-up may be even better (and it's only been out for three weeks). On In the Future, we hear the band build upon their signature classic rock-influenced sound by delving into darker prog-metal territory, but all the while managing to avoid the pretentious pratfalls that plague similarly-minded bands like The Mars Volta. Hopefully the songs come off just as wonderful in a live setting.

Two more black-named bands worth checking out are Black Moth Super Rainbow, who have been discussed in this space before, and Black Devil Disco Club. The latter of which isn't a new artist at all, but rather a French duo who gained mythical status in European disco circles upon the release of the super rare EP Disco Club in 1978. Thanks to Richard James' Rephlex label, Black Devil Disco Club's music is finally being reissued for a new generation of disco-loving fans. 

In any event, the number of "black" artists with stellar output this year is quite impressive. With each offering something for a different type of music fan, you'd be hard-pressed not to find something worth heavy rotation.

[Editor's Note: I changed the title to Black Power since it reads better and frankly is more obvious]

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