Review Summary: A catchy, thrust worthy album- that ultimately fails.
Every once and a while band with much potential, falls under the radar. If there ever was a band to define that phenomenon, it would be 'The Black Velvets' who lasted as an entity just six years and released only one album before breaking up on 21 August 2007.
Hailing from Liverpool, England, The Black Velvets consisted of Paul Carden on Vocals, Robbie Ross on guitar, Dave Dutton on bass, and Nicholas Kilroe on drums and vocals. The band came about when Kilroe and Dutton left their respective bands and joined with Carden and Ross back in 2002. After receiving a number of positive reviews on the performing circuit and getting exposure by supporting none other than 'The Who', the group eventually signed to 'Vertigo Records' in 2004. During this period the band wrote their self titled album which was released in the UK on 12 September 2005, reaching number 75. The band accompanied this release with the singles ‘Get On Your Life’, ‘3345’, ‘Glamstar’ and ‘Once In A While’, from November 2004 to September 2005 respectively. None of these can ultimately be deemed a success, with only ‘3345’ making an imprint on the charts at number 34, whilst ‘Get On Your Life’ and ‘Glamstar’ failed to even reach the top one-hundred.
Rather unfortunately for the band, the British music scene at the time was, and still is, dominated by trendy indie bands which lack the fun and groove of bands from the seventies which the Black Velvets often sound like. Throughout the album there is a distinct glam rock, ‘T-Rex’ esque feel, which is most noticeable on the tracks ‘Once In A While’ and ‘Glamstar’. On this backdrop, The Black Velvets exert their own sound to their songs with monstrous riffs and often aggressive bridge work, as heard on ‘Get On Your Life’ and particularly ‘Save Me’ which is by far the fastest paced track on the album.
Not all of the bands commercial failure can however be attributed to being in existence in a poor time for alternative British music. The album itself has a number of flaws, noticeably with its length, general feel, and inevitable filler tracks. At only 33 minutes and 11 seconds and comprising of only ten songs, ‘The Black Velvets’ is somewhat short and leaves you feeling a bit indifferent to the album when listened to it in one sitting. Quality albums, regardless of their genre, give you a musical journey, which when finished leave you wholly satisfied. This album on the other hand gives you more of a collection of songs, which gives you that unconnected feel, not unlike those found on a greatest hits record.
Perhaps the primary reason for the lack of flow would be the filler tracks, ‘Not All The Time’, and ‘3345’ which for some odd reason was actually picked as a single. ‘NATT’ starts like a lot of the tracks with a slow riff which eventually builds up speed and cracks into a verse. The song fails because it essentially goes nowhere, staying at the same sluggish pace throughout, whilst the vocals sound forced and contribute nothing, and the guitar lacks any of the catchiness that holds most of the other tracks together. ‘3345’, reportedly named and dedicated to a bar/venue in Liverpool, is much the same with bland, uninspired lyrics, and a repetitive structure to the song which leaves you pressing the ‘skip’ button every time. A very poor choice for a single.
Despite the album being essentially flawed, there are in fact many highlights which make you nod your head vigorously and bring out the air guitar hero lurking inside you. The most obvious example of this is ‘Get On Your Life’, which starts with what sounds like a jack lead being plugged into a guitar, and then kicks into a thunderous riff which will leave you smiling and thrusting to the slow rhythm of the track which stays the same throughout. The song is repetitive, consisting of the verse and chorus sitting on top of the one riff played in the intro, with only the occasional break-down to mix things up. Yet the riff itself is so catchy and relentless that the structure does not detract away from the quality of the song too much. It is probably the best track on the album and recommended to those considering listening to the band.
Another highlight would be ‘Glamstar’ which starts with a funky bass line accompanied by a simple drumbeat; occasionally broken up by the guitar. This is eventually accompanied by the lyrics to make the verse, which then crashes into the chorus with Carden shouting, “I guess you thought you made it!” which after a few more lines goes into the verse and follows this pattern three times before ending. Despite structurally being quite drawn out, the song is only 2:47 long and is a prime example of the albums main problem.
‘Save Me’ starts with a few cracks on the snare which then erupts into a relentless pace dominated by another prominent riff from Ross. The riff is again accompanied by the vocals and builds into a chorus with Carden repeatedly shouting ‘Save Me!!’. The song follows this structure until a solo is kicked out at 2:02 by Ross, and then the song peters out with another verse and chorus. The track again is short at 2:51.
As quickly as the album began, it ends. The same can be said for the band. After the album’s release the group gained more exposure playing such festivals as ‘T in the Park’ and the ‘Reading and Leeds Festivals’, but never gained true popularity, with bands such as ‘Razorlight’ dominating the scene. I saw them live in 2007 at my local venue in Winchester where they only managed to attract about thirty people, less than my own university band. Only months later the band took the hint and disbanded. A total waste to what could have developed into a really good band.
Recommended Tracks: ‘Get On Your Life’, ‘Once In A While’, ‘Glamstar’, ‘Save Me’.
It is definitely worth the 90 pence priced on Amazon!