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Black Pistol Fire - Look Alive

  by Adrian Janes

published: 5 / 5 / 2021

Black Pistol Fire - Look Alive
Label: Black Hill Records
Format: CD


Canadian duo Black Pistol Fire offer impassioned and energetic rock with some subtle twists and turns

This impressive sixth album by Black Pistol Fire, a Canadian rock duo composed of Kevin McKeown (vocals/guitar) and Eric Owen (drums/bass synth), both treads and departs from the trail already taken by the Black Keys. Founded upon rock and blues, imaginative electronic and mix elements take many of both bands’ songs into unexpected places, at least temporarily. In this respect, where the Black Keys have Danger Mouse to help provide that extra dimension, Black Pistol Fire have co-producer/engineer Jacob Scipa and mixer Vance Powell. Opening with the title track, the steady, insistent beat and pulsing bass on their own would make it an adequate rocker. What elevates it are little touches and embellishments to the sonic texture (here a swirl of electronic notes), and this is a feature to listen out for over the course of the album, for example the processed voices on ‘Pick Your Poison’ or the subtle build-up of instrumental layers on ‘Beyond the Blue’. While there is plenty of unleashed energy invested in the playing, there is also an ability to shift rhythms within a song (e.g. from its crunchily funky beginning, ‘Never Enough’ moves to a reggaeish feel, then to an urgent chorus), or to slow things down altogether, as on the brooding ‘Hope in Hell’. There is something of a desperate edge to many of the songs. Two of the most emotionally exposed, ‘Wildfire’ and ‘Temper Temper’ both include the phrase “You talked me down”, conjuring images of someone standing on a window ledge or the edge of a bridge. Indeed, McKeown’s vocal style is so constantly impassioned that it can begin to grate. It’s something of a pity that McKeown doesn’t change things up more in this area, as Black Pistol Fire manage to do musically. This includes his own guitarwork. There he adopts a judicious and expressive range of tones, and his solos are always precise. Owen’s drumming is also noteworthy, varied but never failing to provide a solid beat, even on the most frantic numbers like ‘Holdin’ Up’, while his bass synth is a powerful presence when deployed, notably the very catchy line to ‘Temper Temper’. If, like this writer, you feel the Black Keys have somewhat lost their mojo, ‘Look Alive’ will fill that craving for heartfelt rock, but struck with Black Pistol Fire’s own spark.

Track Listing:-
1 Look Alive
2 Pick Your Poison
3 Holdin Up
4 Never Enough
5 Wildfire
6 Hope in Hell
7 Black Halo
8 Temper Temper
9 Level
10 Always On My Mind
11 Beyond the Blue

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