Review : GRACE POTTER AND THE NOCTURNALS - The Lion The Beast The Beat
ConsequenceofsoundIn 2010, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals released a self-titled third studio album. Though met with commercial success, its critics were clear: The album was safe, shallow, and thematically redundant. As Consequence of Sound’s own Stephen Foster wrote in his brilliant review of the album: “Right when you think Grace Potter is headed down the path of expansion and progression…she pulls back the reigns.” When one thinks of Potter, a few words or phrases naturally come to mind: “leggy”, “country music”, “voluminous voice”, to name a few. She is innately a performer, a reincarnation – or more accurately, a reinvention – of that fun time when bands like Heart threw a wrench into the machinery of rock and roll, breaking the conventions of a male-dominated entertainment industry. But despite her legendary vocal presence, despite her contributions to the country rock genre, a few qualms remain – Grace Potter and the Nocturnals seem to possess a lot of potential as a band, so why has their music stagnated? What happens when Potter and her band try on a new word for size – “experimentalism”?
The latest album by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, The Lion The Beast The Beat, thankfully endeavors to try something new. Potter’s vocals are gorgeous as always, but the overall tone of the Nocturnals has arguably changed — forgoing country for experimental rock, they’ve also successfully woven electronic influences into the mix. Though this doesn’t uniformly characterize the album, the few tracks that do stand out represent a possible future path for the band. And indeed, the results are accessible (while steering away from the mundane or repetitive) and fresh (what we all hoped for).
The album’s title track starts us off, featuring an enticing instrumental entrance similar to Beach House’s “Myth” on Bloom. Though the song finds itself plagued by some cheesy one-liners (“I found the heart of a lion/ In the belly of the beast / and I held it in my hand / And I could feel, I could feel / The beat”) just like Potter’s past songs (think: “One Short Night” off her last album), the beginning procession is strong and determined, highlighting how the Nocturnals’ instrumentals are starting to wade into new waters. Likewise, “Parachute Heart” sounds far too familiar, while “Stars” has a promising start as an acoustic guitar track before the lyrics creep in: “I can’t look at the stars/ they make me wonder where you are/ up on Heaven’s boulevard.” Add the piano accents, and it’s way too sappy for its own good....full text
PopmattersThe next time someone needs an old abandoned building demolishing they needn’t bother with all that hiring a wrecking ball kerfuffle just get Miss Grace Potter to pop over and blow that Mutha down with her lungs. Honestly Potter’s got the vocal arsenal of a Greek God—part Joplin, part Boudica, all lethal weapon. A voice designed to tear off roofs and tear-up hearts. A force of nature so incendiary her band’s sassily-titled fourth album should come with a health sticker warning “Play Indoors at Owner’s Risk”.
Thus The Lion, The Beast, The Beat proves itself a mischievously devilish quandary. Conceptually it’s “A play on the duality of human nature”; the polished, well-mannered 9-to-5 exterior versus the filthy beast with an appetite for destruction that lurks seething within. Sadly for us the focus here proves too much on the former and so rarely—albeit memorably—on the latter. Do we go to the movies to see Doctor David Banner totterin’ about in his lab coat, lookin’ befuddled at Bunsen burners and test tubes? No way Mr. McGee, we want the Hulk, veins-a-poppin’, pissed off and batshit crazy, tossin’ tanks like stones into the sea and swatting helicopters like mosquitoes. In other words, let’s open the cage…
The album roars into glorious life with the titular track and it feels like the stage is set for one of the year’s great records. All John “The Beast” Bonham drums, smoulderin’ axes and Mrs Mojo Risin’ conjuring the spirits of every bad ass outlaw ever to don a leather jacket. “Someone let the beast out,” caterwauls Potter before unleashin’ some serious heads-down Motorhead-bangin’ boogie. A litany of deserts, motorbikes and burning horizons rise and despite being as subtle as a denim’d knee to the knackers it’s pant-wettingly thrilling. Put simply, you wouldn’t think twice about ditching your dearly beloved and jumpin’ on the back of Potter’s Harley. Not that she’d give you a choice. When it crashes into a fireball collision you almost expect them to holler “Goodnight Earth!” and run off stage, grab a fluffy white robe and dive straight into a waiting limo....full text
HeyreverbIdiosyncratic Vermont-based singer-songwriter Grace Potter’s unlikely trajectory began in 2002 as part of the jam-band circuit and has gone on to include collaborations with artists as divergent as Kenny Chesney and the Black Keys. The diversity in Potter’s resume speaks to her artistic gifts and weaknesses. On her sixth release, “The Lion the Beast the Beat,” Potter credibly tackles different sounds and genres but never latches on to one that seems distinctly her own.
The album is a schizophrenic affair that showcases Potter’s ability as a multi-instrumentalist and powerhouse singer while also hinting a bit too clearly at a venal desire for mainstream acceptance. Songs such as the headache-inducing title track, a ’70s-rock-style amalgam of big riffs and bellowing vocals, recalls war-horse acts like Heart at their worst. The mawkish “Stars” is equally tough to digest, feeling basely contrived to find a home in new country radio’s regular rotation....full text
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