Music Review: The Black Belles

The Black Belles

Looking like a cross between Elvira, the Children of the Corn, and a teenaged Wednesday Addams, the Black Belles are immediately visually striking, and their horror aesthetic is apparent from the start. These four femme fatales look like they walked straight out of a (male) horror fan’s darkest dreams. A product of producer Jack White under his Third Man Records label, the Black Belles have recently been making their name as a garage-goth chick band. With an appearance on the Colbert Report as Stephen Colbert’s backing band, and a single that was re-appropriated as the instrumental opening of Elvira’s new Movie Macabre series, the Belles have been gaining popularity as the new witches of indie rock. Now, with a self-titled album (released, along with the aforementioned songs, on Third Man Records vinyl and compact disc), and a national tour, the Belles are set to sweep garage-rock America. The question remains:  are they any good?

The Black Belles review on Into The Dark

Jack White’s Svengoolie-meets-Phil-Spector schtick works wonders, and yes, the Black Belles kick major ass on their first, full-length eponymous release. The Belles’ music has been compared to a mix of two of White’s own bands, the White Stripes and the Dead Weather, but this is an unfair cop-out by people who don’t get it. Yes, the Black Belles share some the of the twangy, indie rock sounds of their creator, but they are also infused with their own atmospheric darkness, fueled mostly by spook-surf organ music provided by Belles keyboardist Lil’ Boo, and witchy vocals by frontwoman Oliva Jean. Jean’s vocals are equal parts Dinah Cancer and L7, with the Belles lending support via Shangri-La’s-like backing vocals. The Belles’ sound is a pastiche of surf-tinted garage rock, feedback, girl-group choruses, and noise rock.  In short, it’s a mostly lo-fi affair; think vamps with amps.

the black belles, into the dark“I’ve been a bad girl / and I wash the blood from my hands again,” shrieks/sings Jean on “Honky Tonk Horror.” “The Wrong Door” starts with an eerie, spook-house organ riff, and then adds on some Munsters-inspired drums leading into a song which laments a relationship that survives simply because Oliva Jean resolves to “play dead / to keep [her lover] from pulling the pillow over my head.”  The album starts to get surprisingly pop-infused during it’s second half, but that’s not a bad thing; “Pushing Up Daisies” and “Not Tonight” both infuse a bit more girl-glam into the mix, displaying a slightly more melodic side to the Belles. The album’s closing track, “Hey Velda,” starts in this vein, but transitions into a distortion-fueled cacophony of noise rock.

The Black Belles is a solid album from start to finish. Jack White’s creation, an indie-rock Bride of Frankenstein, might be in danger of initially being dismissed as either a lesser production, the Dead Weather with Jack White replaced by his female doppelganger, or the White Stripes as a girl-group fronted by Lydia Dietz from Beetlejuice (The Black Stripes, perhaps?). Rest assured, though, the Belles are a worthy band in their own right, and their self-titled release should be added to your vaults without a moment’s hesitation.

 

The Black Belles music, along with other fine releases, can be found on glorious vinyl at your local record store, or online at www.thirdmanrecords.com.

Rating: 4/5 ★★★★☆ 

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About Nathan_E

Nathan Erdel is a screenwriter. He wrote Headless and some other stuff. He likes beer, metal, pizza, and horror. He has three cats and one wife.

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