The blues rock revival has seen two distinct halves follow their own paths. On one side, Jack White and The Black Keys moved steadily into the pop realm, their garage-riffed jams largely driven by simple guitar/drums instrumentation and digestible, genre-focused styles (give or take White’s marimba). Those that drift further into the roughed up psych-soul half of the equation have remained one odd step off of that path, the likes of King Khan too gleefully weird and perpetually near-nude, The Black Lips too ready to vomit and piss onstage, Nobunny too…Nobunny. For years now, Black Joe Lewis has been able to straddle the two, his soulful croon, incorporation of richly appointed backing band, and varied discography suggestive of the latter half, yet still approachable enough to suggest a possible move to the big time.
That trend continues on the Austinite’s new LP, Electric Slave. Lewis pushes some individual twists to the agenda without the choices becoming overwhelming. The album professes a strong anti-technology bent, and opener “Skulldiggin” sets that table with gigantic guitar and bone-breaking drum work. In heavier hands Lewis’ howled lyrics about mind control could come off as luddite paranoia, but the chainsaw riffs keep the song from slipping into unbridled mania. Rather than encouraging a Google Hangout, he’s the kind of guy that wants everybody to come over and spend time in person. “I got all the good jams/ gonna pull the furniture out the living room tonight/ cause everybody rockin’ at my party,” he yowls as he sets up a party for just about everyone. This isn’t just for the garage kids or the funk throwbacks; the rhythms are flecked with shimmery disco cymbals and the sax even breaks into a pretty good impression of “Rumpshaker”.
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