The Smokes CD review by Michael Coleman

Music Reviews
The Smokes CD review by Michael Coleman
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Mar 3, 2008, 03:42

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THE SMOKES Ninesongs456 CD

The blues' 21st century facelift continues unabated with a satisfying debut record from Portland-based neo blues rockers The Smokes.

Ninesongs456 clocks in just short of 30 minutes, and in this case that's enough. With boozy swagger, The Smokes serve up a tight set that rightfully leaves you wanting a little more. “I Know She Lies,” a brawny rocker, finds front-man Robert Burnham admitting that his woman's bad news. But instead of whining about it, he embraces the bitch.  “Sister,” a shuffling dirge, treads in even darker territory with fuzzed out guitar and a sinister bass-line. “Out of Touch,” if a bit pedestrian, showcases the band's soulful side.

Like the best of their contemporaries, The Smokes' brand of blues is ragged and shot through with a world-weary attitude. But unlike say, the Black Keys, The Smokes don't view the hook with disdain. And, unlike most blues bands whose songs are driven by guitars, on these tracks it's the keyboards—laid down with funky aplomb by Mark Breittenbach—that take the wheel.

Perhaps the record's most glaring weakness is the repetitive mid-tempo pace of so many of the tracks. A little more mayhem would make things a bit more interesting, but these blues tunes do OK taking their own time. [Self-released]

-Michael Coleman

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