Mancunian power trio Blackballed have built quite a big reputation for themselves, especially in their homeland over the best part of the last decade, and their third full-lengther, Elephant in the Room (the band’s first with new drummer Alex Whitehead). sees the band ready to conquer new and exciting territories thanks to the stunning dexterity of their blues-swamped hard rock majesty.
Guitarist/vocalist Marshall Gill (you may know him from his work with Brit punks New Model Army) is the focal point here, the pivot around which the rhythm section (Whitehead and bassist Tom Wibberley) lays down a selection of tight-as-the proverbial grooves. Between them this exceedingly powerful trio traverse the classic rock gamut with verve and style, from the snakehipped seventies metal attack of Someone Else’s Shoes and Show Me The Light all the way across to the more loosely assembled strummage of the Britpoppy Another Lonely Day. In between they restate their commitment to the soulful hard rock of the late sixties – mournful ballad Flesh and Bone recalls the early days of Free or maybe Grand Funk mainman Mark Farner in his more reflective solo moments – with a glorious attention to detail that never sounds nerdish or forced but always hits the target dead on in every respect. Gill’s solo on this track is one of the highlights of the album, brief, restrained, tasteful and emotive, bringing the hairs on the back of the neck to attention as he explores his fretboard beautifully.
Break These Chains is an uptempo barroom boogie that’ll get ’em rolling in the aisles when they’re allowed to rock in the UK again, and the only misfire comes (to these ears at least) when the band inject themselves into the twenty first century via the slightly clunky alt.rock of penultimate track Bring You Down. Even this ain’t a bad toon (especially if you are a fan of the Foo Fighters), but it does stick out a bit as a recently-hammered thumb within the almost overwhelmingly-retro context of the rest of the album.
Still one semi-misstep out of ten ain’t a bad tally, and there’s no doubt that Blackballed are currently among the very best at what they do in the UK. Next stop the World!
Elephant In The Room releases on July 24th.