Review : Black Box Revelation - My Perception
PopmattersDo fads have echo booms? Common thought would have the garage rock revival of the last decade dead and buried for some time now. Yet here comes Black Box Revelation, two infectiously enthusiastic childhood friends bearing twin fists of sludgy, dive-bar rhythm and blues reminiscent of once-breathlessly hyped, would-be rock ‘n’ roll saviors the Hives and Von Bondies. If nothing else, Jan Paternoster and Dries Van Dijck, the Belgian young guns that comprise Black Box Revelation, are certainly some of the biggest fans of vintage, grimy rock prowling the streets today. Going by their musical output alone, the boys live and breathe in labored gasps the sweat-stained, live-wire variety best exemplified by the Rolling Stones’ legendary Exile on Main Street. They’re a young outfit, and their exuberance for this particular strain of rock ‘n’ roll is evident on nearly every track of their third effort, My Perception.
There’s a fine line between original music that reveals overt influences and shameless pastiche, and Black Box Revelation are tap dancing all over it. That’s understandable, after all: A natural aspect of any artist’s progression is replicating the music that speaks most indelibly to him or her. So My Perception then showcases a nascent band in a transitory state, searching for its own voice and borrowing Mick Jagger’s to tide it over in the meantime. Which is not to say the songs on display here are uninspired or cheap knock-offs; there’s enough blood and guts on the opening track alone to sate a whole hoard of ravenous vampires. “High on a Wire”, cemented by a bluesy, pulsing riff that stops just short of lifting ZZ Top’s “La Grange” wholesale and dooming the lads to a lifetime of paying out royalties to Billy Gibbons, sets the tone for the following twelve tracks: a no-nonsense rocker with Paternoster’s grizzled growl espousing perfunctory, self-aggrandizing lyrics. One could chalk up the innocuous lyrics and their afterthought-nature to the duo being native French speakers, but buried underneath the propulsive riffs and booming drums, it doesn’t really matter what they’re saying, so much as how.
What sets My Perception apart from its forebearers or even its early-aughts garage-rock revivalist-brethren like Jet and The White Stripes are the little touches here and there that serve to punch up their tunes—the chirpy keyboard solo that spirals out of control on “High on a Wire”, the bongo back-beat of the title track, the snotty whistling on “Good Swimmer”; these admittedly peripheral flourishes not only make their respective songs appreciably better, but they also display a certain degree of thoughtfulness and musical creativity that is otherwise not immediately evident.
The parade of white-knuckled rock songs comes to an abrupt end late in the disc, when the boys indulge their psychedelic predilections with a pair of plodding dirges, “2 Young Boys” and “Lonely Hearts”. If the vast majority of My Perception calls to mind golden-age Stones, these two missteps unfortunately reflect the infamous Their Satanic Majesties Request. Psychedelia is a difficult genre to dip one’s toes in; it presents a musical landscape fraught with plodding rhythms, indulgent excess, and a labyrinthine structure, with no clear end in sight when the going gets bad. When done right, it provides a mesmerizing auditory experience, but Black Box Revelation’s initial forays into the genre are marked by drudgery and a bleak outlook that seems incongruent with the rest of the band’s material. The best thing that can be said about these two tracks is that they serve to highlight just how good Black Box Revelation can be when the boys stick with what works. Thankfully, they do just at on the final track, “My Girl”, righting the ship as they lay on the howling guitars and guttural vocals to send the album out on a sweaty sea of sleaze....full text
SputnikmusicMy Perception is already the third album by Belgian superstars The Black Box Revelation. And they made it very clear: the goal with this album is to conquer The States. To achieve this goal, they pulled out all the stops: they signed with American label C.E.M., went recording in sunny LA, attracted Alain Johannes as producer (the guy also produced albums for Queens of the Stone Age and Mark Lanegan) and later this year they are going on tour all across the USA.
But the question is: will they succeed? Personally, I think they won't on the strength of this album alone. Because although production wise this is their best album yet, the problem I saw with their first two efforts remains: their catchy and mean blues rock is hardly anything new. What's even worse is that My Perception doesn't evoke as much excitement as the previous two albums did. There's nothing wrong with taking influence from other (blues) rock bands - especially bands like The Rolling Stones, The Stooges, Neil Young or The Black Keys. But you have to give it a twist and make it yours. And that's the biggest problem with My Perception: it sounds fake. It's The Black Box Revelation not taking influence from other bands but just playing bland covers of those bands.
Album opener "Madhouse" is blatant posering, title track "My Perception" is average Rolling Stones but with added cowbell and "2 Young Boys" starts with a promising and heavier type of riff, but the clichéd lyrics combined with the uninspired middle section make that the song doesn't go anywhere in the end. No, it's the slower atmospherical songs that are the highlights this time around. On "White Unicorns" guitarist Jan Paternoster gets plenty of room to passionately showcase his solo skills and "New Sun" is ideally suited to gently fall asleep to while laying next to the campfire. But again, while the slower highlights can hardly be called bad, they just follow the standard Black Box Revelation formula for slow burners a bit too nicely....full text
ContactmusicReturning with their third album in as many years, Belgium's Black Box Revelation have teamed up with Alain Johannes (Them Crooked Vultures touring guitarist and serial Josh Homme co-conspirator) for My Perception, an album which is clearly indebted to the rock and psychedelia reminiscent of the late 1960's and 1970's music scenes, both in the UK and America. Having said that, the album, although it has a 'retro' vibe, is not an out and out rehash of the era.
What My Perception is, is an album of two halves. You get the upbeat, Rolling Stones-esque stomps of My Perception (the title track) and Rattle My Heart. The songs come close to sounding almost like New York Dolls in places, with the careless, drawling vocals and the almost lo-fi production sound. There is also the brilliant, almost Stooges like Madhouse; only a very brave band would record something that sounds this close to the very much unbeatable sound made by Iggy Pop's original band of lunatics, but here Black Box Revelation pull it off to great effect. Bitter is another great song in this vein; it's assured beat and brilliantly crunchy guitars make it a highlight of the album.
The other half of the album is the more jam orientated material, where the pure skill of these musicians is displayed to great effect. White Unicorns is a very laid back, psychedelic track, with shades of Hendrix in it. 2 Young Boys and the album's closing blast My Girl again, are more experimental than a lot of the rest of the album, with extended instrumental sections. It is on these songs where it really hits home that, for a two piece band, Black Box Revelation really do make a hell of a lot of noise. On the downside, thanks to these more jam-laden songs, the second half of the album does begin to drag slightly.
It is clear from the opening notes of High on a Wire that My Perception is going to be an interesting album for those with even a passing interest in rock music. There's scuzzy, full throttle blues romps sitting comfortably next to more quiet moments. My Perception is an album that sits just on the edge of chaos, providing a brilliant musical thrill ride, almost from start to finish. Sure, it could benefit from a little trimming here and there, but this album, and by extension this band, is well worth a listen....full text
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